It was on this day, 100 years ago, Abbas Effendi boarded the SS Corsican, to begin His first trip to the West. A prisoner since the age of nine, Abbas Effendi, also known as `Abdu’l-Bahá, was the administrative Head of the Bahá’í Faith after His Father’s passing in 1892. The years between his appointment and this historic journey were marked with many crises. `Abdu’l-Bahá suffered greatly at the hands of the enemies of the Faith, whose intent was to extinguish the light of the community. Victory was marked however, after a turn in the regime of the region, resulting in the release of all the political prisoners of the Ottoman Empire. In the following passage, Shoghi Effendi describes that momentous time:
Yet as soon as He was released from His forty-year long captivity, as soon as He had laid the Báb’s body in a safe and permanent resting-place, and His mind was free of grievous anxieties connected with the execution of that priceless Trust, He arose with sublime courage, confidence and resolution to consecrate what little strength remained to Him, in the evening of His life, to a service of such heroic proportions that no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Bahá’í century.
Indeed His three years of travel, first to Egypt, then to Europe and later to America, mark, if we would correctly appraise their historic importance, a turning point of the utmost significance in the history of the century. For the first time since the inception of the Faith, sixty-six years previously, its Head and supreme Representative burst asunder the shackles which had throughout the ministries of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh so grievously fettered its freedom. Though repressive measures still continued to circumscribe the activities of the vast majority of its adherents in the land of its birth, its recognized Leader was now vouchsafed a freedom of action which, with the exception of a brief interval in the course of the War of 1914–18, He was to continue to enjoy to the end of His life, and which has never since been withdrawn from its institutions at its world center. (God Passes By)