Gianni Ballerio, longtime Baha'i International Community representative to the United Nations, passes away

GENEVA, Switzerland - Giovanni (Gianni) Ballerio, 58, who represented the Bahá'í International Community at the United Nations here and in New York since 1981, lost his battle with cancer on 13 December 2001.

An Italian, born and raised in Asmara, Eritrea, Mr. Ballerio was a tireless champion of human rights, including the rights of women and girls. Since 1992 he represented the Bahá'í International Community's Office for the Advancement of Women in Geneva and became well-known among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as one of a minority of men at UN conferences promoting the equality of women.

His warmth, vivacity and clear understanding of the issues earned him the respect and admiration of his many contacts in United Nations agencies and among the NGO community. He was also responsible for initiating and developing working relations between the Bahá'í International Community and the World Health Organization and for establishing a permanent Bahá'í representation at the UN in Geneva.

The international governing body of the Bahá'í Faith, the Universal House of Justice, called Mr. Ballerio "a faithful, warm-hearted servant of Bahá'u'lláh whose cheerful spirit and sense of duty illumined his devoted services..."

He leaves behind his wife, Gail Madjzoub, and three children from a previous marriage: Leo, William and Marion Ballerio.