Siegfried Schopflocher (1877 – 1953)
Siegfried (Fred) Schopflocher was born in Germany in 1877. He was brought up in an orthodox Jewish family but, after leaving school, became attracted to agnosticism and searched for a more universal expression of religion. Years later, after having permanently established himself in business in Canada, Mr. Schopflocher heard of the Bahá’í Faith and, shortly thereafter, became a Bahá’í.
In 1922, Mr. Schopflocher visited Haifa, the first of many journeys to the World Centre of the Bahá’í Faith. His devotion to Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, was immediate and lasting. Shoghi Effendi entrusted him with specific assignments to carry out during several of his international tours.
His travels, usually undertaken in conjunction with his business, took him to every corner of the globe, where he was able to visit Bahá’í communities and experience first-hand the extraordinary bond linking the believers throughout the world in their love for a common cause. Normally, as Mr. Schopflocher said, it would have been impossible for a Westerner to make contact with such a wide variety of people in the East and West, especially on such short and relatively infrequent visits to so many places; but the worldwide community of Bahá’ís eliminated all barriers.
For 15 years between 1924 and 1947, Mr. Schopflocher served as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada. When the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada was formed as an independent administrative body in 1948, Mr. Schopflocher was elected a member and served continuously on that body until 1953. It was chiefly through his efforts, with the able assistance of Horace Holley, that the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada secured a unique form of incorporation via an Act of the Parliament of Canada.
Of the many international services Mr. Schopflocher rendered to the Bahá’í Faith over the last 30 years of his life, perhaps none is more noteworthy than his contribution to the completion of the Bahá’í House of Worship for North America in Wilmette, Illinois. Mr. Schopflocher immediately understood the significance of the temple and, through numerous conversations with Shoghi Effendi, realized its importance to the growth of the Bahá’í Faith. It was after one of his visits to Haifa that Mr. Schopflocher arrived at a National Bahá’í Convention in Wilmette and renewed the National Spiritual Assembly’s enthusiasm for resuming construction of the exterior ornamentation of the temple. It was for this service that Shoghi Effendi called him “the Chief Temple-Builder.”
In 1952, Mr. Schopflocher was designated a Hand of the Cause of God, the highest office to which a Bahá’í individual could be appointed, which coincided with Shoghi Effendi’s request that he assist the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada to establish a national centre.
Mr. Schopflocher had a deep affection for the people of India. He had been eagerly looking forward to attending a Bahá’í conference in New Delhi in 1953, but it was not to be. He passed away in Montréal on July 27th of that year after a short illness. He was buried, at Shoghi Effendi’s request, close to the grave of William Sutherland Maxwell, the first Canadian Hand of the Cause.
* Adapted from Bahá’í World, Vol. 12, 1950-1954, “In Memoriam,” pp. 664-6.