Baha’i Chile Temple Construction Moves Forward

The Chile Baha’i Temple project may have peculiar mathematical challenges when it comes to funding, but the actual building work is moving forward. Finally.

After multiple delays caused by problems with securing a location as well as general project mismanagement which delayed the project by more than 4 years, Baha’is around the world were recently informed by the Universal House of Justice that actual work was beginning.

From the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies:

Dear Baha’i Friends,

With joy we announce several major developments in connection with the emergence of the Mother Temple of South America. Two weeks ago the contract for the construction of the foundation of the building and all concrete work was awarded to a reputable firm in Chile. Following the completion of the excavation and grading for the foundation and plaza, work has now begun on the basement, service tunnel, main floor and mezzanine structure, incorporating important features for seismic resistance based on extensive computational modelling and analysis. And today, after several months of evaluation and assessment of alternative bids, the contract for the fabrication and erection of the Temple’s complex steel superstructure was signed with a well-known German company.

The skeletal framework will stand thirty metres high and support five hundred tonnes of exterior and interior cladding of translucent cast glass and carved stone. The nine linked sections of the metal structure will be bound together through an intricate anchorage system that will ensure the connections will not detract from the sublime aesthetic effect of the completed design.

May the followers of the Blessed Beauty throughout the world draw inspiration from these recent developments as they exert themselves – sacrificially, generously, unitedly – to contribute to the advancement of the Cause by word and deed.

The Universal House of Justice

Peripheral work on preparing the areas that will develop into the gardens and surrounding grounds were started last year. This included the installation of a 50 cubic foot irrigation water tank along with its pump room and over 600 feet of underground piping.

The contract for the construction of the 50 meter radius foundation was awarded to a Chilean construction firm. The next step after that will be the fabrication and erection of the steel structures engineered by Soheil Mosun on top of ten seismic base isolators that will act to protect the building in case of earthquakes.

Below is a gallery showing some of the recent work undertaken including the installation of a perimeter fence surrounding the temporary onsite construction facilities. You can find the foundation work in the most recent Google Maps images. Zoom into the South East corner of Santiago in the Pe?alol?n commune or type in these GPS co-ordinates: 33°28’35.07″S 70°30’41.86″W.

For more information and to keep up to date with news check out the new Baha’i Chile Temple website

Baha’i Chile Temple Construction: Math Challenge

It has certainly been too long since we discussed the Baha’i Chile temple project. In case this is new to you, here is an introductory video featuring the architect of the building, Siamak Hariri.

As you may recall, in a letter dated April 14 2005, the Universal House of Justice wrote that the cost would be $27 million (US dollars) with a 3 year construction time period:

Total cost of the project is estimated at twenty-seven million dollars, and the plans now call for its completion within a period of three years.

Anyone with an iota of experience with large construction projects would know that such initial estimates are always far too conservative. Having completed the huge Arc project just a few years ago, I assumed that the UHJ was experienced enough to make that judgement. Therefore, I reserved my caution, hoping for miracle:

I’m not sure just how realistic the $27 million (or the three year time table) is. Such projects have a tendency to run over-budget, especially in a developing country. But then again, the project team could pull it off without a hitch. I wish them the best.

Of course, things did not go as planned. The Baha’i Chile Temple was not finished in 2008. In fact, the engineering firm of Soheil Mosun hired by the UHJ was able to work out all the kinks in their software (originally intended for aeronautical modeling, not free standing structures like a building) in early 2007. With that in place, the project could proceed to actually starting to fabricate the material.

Fast forward to today and we have news that they are finally putting spades in the ground and begun excavation. This is the very first steps in the long construction process. And it has come 5 years after the purchase of the land and 3 years after the initial completion date (2007-2008). But being behind schedule shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the polemic that surrounded the project from the onset.

What should concern Baha’is is the math involved with the construction costs and the funds that have been contributed for the Chile Temple project. Initially the cost estimate was $27 million. The new estimate is $38 million – a 41% increase.

As well, the Universal House of Justice writes in a recent letter that so far, approximately $20 million has been raised, leaving $18 million still to be raised:

However, if we look at information from various National Spiritual Assemblies, it is clear that much more than $20 million has already been contributed.

Consider that the official 2009 annual report from the US NSA includes the following (from page 48):

Chilean Temple Initiative The American Bah??’? community has, to date, contributed $12.7 million to the construction of the Mother Temple of South America. It has passionately answered the call of the National Spiritual Assembly to contribute the ?lion’s share? of the $27 million projected cost of the last of the continental Mashriqu’l-Adhk??rs. Since the last Annual Report over $1 million has been contributed to the Chilean Temple Fund through direct contributions, the Automatic Contribution System, pledges, and ?in honor? contributions.

The UHJ asked the US Baha’is to take point in this endeavor and they have performed admirably. The Chile Temple initiative is actually part of the Kingdom Project and the website ( is operated by the US NSA.

Back to the numbers: since that was in 2009, if we assume that the same general pace of donations was maintained, then we have the US contributing $12.7 million as well as an additional $1 million since that report in 2009. So that is a total of approximately $13.7 million.

From data available through the Canadian Charities Directorate of the Canadian Revenue Agency, we know that the Baha’i NSA contributed $12.5 million in 2009:

In 2008 the NSA of the Baha’is of Canada sent $2.9 million outside of Canada but it did not breakdown that amount into individual countries so we do not know how much, if any, was destined to Chile. The breakdown that you see above was only introduced in 2010. Likewise in 2007, the Canadian NSA sent $9.8 million outside of Canada. And in 2006, $5 million and finally in 2005 when the Chilean Temple fundraising began, $2.8 million.

So if we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that none of the amounts from 2005-2008 sent outside of Canada (not even 5%) were destined to Chile for the construction of the Temple and if we again, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that no other funds since 2009 have been collected and sent for the same purpose, we still have a total of $12.5 million.

With the $13.7 million from the US that is a total of $26.2 million. That amount has already been collected and forwarded to Chile by the US and Canada. Of course, these are just two countries. We are ignoring all of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, etc. Some countries are wealthier than others and are thus able to contribute much more than others. From travels and my own knowledge of the Baha’i communities, my guesstimate is that the European Baha’i community, while small in number, is very wealthy. Especially Germany, UK, Italy, Spain and France. Even more wealth is focused in the Middle East. But again, we give the benefit of the doubt here and assume that all these countries have donated zero towards the Chilean Temple project.

With the total of $26.2 we have $6.2 million more than the UHJ writes in their letter above. Where did those $6.2 million go?

That is, instead of $18 million still to be contributed, we really have just $11.8 left to collect to have a sum of $38 million.

And if we do add in some figure for the other countries as well as bringing the total up to reflect donations sent after 2009 until the present, then the difference between the two becomes even larger!

I’ve tried to base this on known facts but if we expand it to reasonable speculation by removing all the ‘benefits of doubt’ that were mentioned above, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the total of $38 (or even more!) had already been collected for this project.

Unfortunately, getting an accurate handle on such things is made impossible by the opacity that pervades international Baha’i reporting when it comes to anything to do with finances. At the national level, as you can see, we have some information from NSA annual reports. Some NSA’s like Canada, sadly do not respect the Baha’i community that they represent enough to release an annual report. This leaves the obligatory disclosures they must make to the CRA as the only source of real information.

I hope that such discrepancies outlined above do not reflect a culture of incompetence but have some other explanation. The only real way to know that is through transparency and open communication – something wholly lacking today. I’m reminded of what Shoghi Effendi wrote:

The duties of those whom the friends [Bah??'?s] have freely and conscientiously elected as their representatives are no less vital and binding than the obligations of those who have chosen them. Their function is not to dictate, but to consult, and consult not only among themselves, but as much as possible with the friends whom they represent. They must regard themselves in no other light but that of chosen instruments for a more efficient and dignified presentation of the Cause of God. They should never be led to suppose that they are the central ornaments of the body of the Cause, intrinsically superior to others in capacity or merit, and sole promoters of its teachings and principles. They should approach their task with extreme humility, and endeavour by their open-mindedness, their high sense of justice and duty, their candour, their modesty, their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity, to win not only the confidence and the genuine support and respect of those whom they should serve, but also their esteem and real affection. They must at all times avoid the spirit of exclusiveness, the atmosphere of secrecy, free themselves from a domineering attitude, and banish all forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations. They should, within the limits of wise discretion, take the friends into their confidence, acquaint them with their plans, share with them their problems and anxieties, and seek their advice and counsel.
(23 February 1924 to the Bah??’?s of America, published in “Bah??’? Administration”, p. 64)

This news is brought to you thanks to the contribution of a fellow Baha’i who shared their concerns with Baha’i Rants anonymously. Similar submissions may be made using the contact form or by sending an email to baquia at bahairants dot com.

The only stipulations are that the information (and/or documents) be verifiably factual and relevant to a Baha’i audience.

Iranians Curious About “Bahai”, Americans Not

Google, being the most widely used search engine, collects an unbelievably large amount of data about how we use the internet and what we search for. Since their motto is “Don’t be evil” they are rather transparent and open up a lot of this data, offering an intriguing view into what people around the world are curious about.

According to Google, a lot of folks are interested to learn more about the Baha’i Faith on the internet. The keyword “bahai” ranks at around 80, which is relatively high (out of 100). The trend over the past 4 years is moderately decreasing however.

Google also breaks down the search volume for keywords by geography. Perhaps you would be surprised to learn that, by far, the most curious, are Iranians:


According to Google, Iran’s search volume for the keyword Baha’ is 100 (the highest). I’m amazed to see such unbridled curiosity from the cradle of the Faith. Not just because I tend to read from most parts that people there are generally apathetic but also because of the technological limitations imposed by a nationwide firewall which rivals China’s.

If you drill down into the Iranian data, you discover that there has been a dramatic drop off in search volume for Baha’i in the past 4 years. It has gone from 100 to low double digits. Maybe that’s when the firewall went into effect. Or perhaps it was ratcheted up.

Understandably, the second spot goes to Israel, at a respectable 67. I don’t know about you, but I would be a tiny bit interested to learn more about this “Baha’i” thing if I had scores of Baha’is in my backyard every year.

Unfortunately for the proclamation efforts of the NSA of the United States, Americans are apathetic at an index reading of just 39. However, the people in the state of Illinois, for some strange reason, show the highest interest. Followed very closely by Alaska.

Another country scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of interest is Chile. Hopefully once the Santiago Temple is finished, that will change things.

If you want to tinker with the data, here is the link for the Google Insight worldwide, and Iran specific search data.

Chile Baha’i Temple Video

This is a new video showcasing the Baha’i temple in Chile, Santiago:

This short video (about 8 minutes long) features the architect of the temple, Hariri, talking about the concept behind the design of the temple. The structure looks simply stunning.

Whensoever the light of Manifestation of the King of Oneness settleth upon the throne of the heart and soul, His shining becometh visible in every limb and member. At that time the mystery of the famed tradition gleameth out of the darkness: “A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him; and when I have answered him, I become the ear wherewith he heareth….” For thus the Master of the house hath appeared within His home, and all the pillars of the dwelling are ashine with His light. And the action and effect of the light are from the Light-Giver; so it is that all move through Him and arise by His will. And this is that spring whereof the near ones drink, as it is said: “A fount whereof the near unto God shall drink….”


Chile Temple Takes Shape

Since the previous time I wrote about the Chile temple, another step has been taken towards its ultimate completion. The Canadian firm of Soheil Mosun has finished building and testing a 1/6th scale model of one of the nine petals that will surround the temple.

Apparently they had some glitches to work out over 7 months as the software they were using is normally used for aeronautical testing. The good news is that after “extensive and detailed testing” the model seems to be accurate enough that fabrication on full scale can begin.

It will take approximately two to three years to manufacture the pieces in Canada. Afterwards they will be shipped to Chile for final assembly. This may seem like an odd way to build such a structure but it turned out to be the most cost effective solution among the options considered.

On site construction work is planned to begin in October 2008. All in all, it is safe to estimate atleast 4 years before the temple is completed at an estimated cost of US $27 million.