David and Esther Tanyi - ‘Adam and Eve of the Baha'i Faith in Cameroon'
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‘At the airport, while relatives dissolved in tears, the pioneers marched cheerfully to the plane.’
At just 25 years old, David Tanyi was the oldest of the five young Cameroonian Knights of Bahá’u’lláh – the four others were all under 21. Newly married, and forfeiting a job opportunity to go pioneering, he reached French Togoland in early 1954, and was named a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh together with Vivian Wesson and Mavis Nymon. David’s young wife Esther was only able to join him several months later together with their first son, born in his absence.
It was the start of 35 years of pioneering, during which Esther and David Tanyi experienced poverty, hunger and malnutrition, loneliness and xenophobia – but also the joy of teaching, and laying the foundations for Bahá’í communities in Togo, Benin and Ghana. ‘My heart is as sweet as sugar,’ wrote David Tanyi, ‘to see that the Faith is now spreading here is a miracle indeed. I tell you sister there are many pure souls here . . .’
Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga, who taught the Bahá’í Faith to Esther and David Tanyi, described them as ‘Adam and Eve of the Bahá’í Faith in Cameroon’ because they were the first Cameroonian couple to accept the Faith, and the hospitality they offered in their home was instrumental in building the first Bahá’í community in that country.
All the young Bahá’ís who were named Knights of Bahá’u’lláh came from this community. Shoghi Effendi wrote to them: ‘you are rendering historic service, and you are becoming the honour and glory of Africa.’
Born in 1954 in Cameroon, Enoch Tanyi went with his parents to Lomé, Togo, at the age of three months and pioneered further with them to Ghana, returning to Cameroon in 1988. An agronomist specializing in Agroforestry, he has worked in Cameroon for the International Council for Research in Agroforestry, now the World Agroforestry Centre in Cameroon; and in Nigeria at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. He also carried out voluntary service as assistant coordinator of a resettlement project of the Bahá’í Agency for Social and Economic Development in the Eastern region of Cameroon.
With wide experience in Bahá’i administration since serving on the first Youth Committee of Ghana, and later on the National Spiritual Assembly of Ghana and as an Auxiliary Board member in that country, as well as on regional and national teaching committees since his return to Cameroon, he now serves on the Spiritual Assembly of Yaoundé V and since 2015 has been a member of the history task force of the National Spiritual Assembly of Cameroon.
He is the author of The Covenant: Daily Readings from the Bahá’í Teachings and The Covenant for Young People (both published by George Ronald).
His hobbies include studying the Bahá’í writings; writing, in general, including poems and songs; and watching football on television. He is married to Mary and they have three sons.
Dimensions: 203 x 127 mm ( 8 x 5 ins)
Weight: 357 g