Baha’i Chair Conference Examines Concept of Human Dignity
The Baha’i Chair for World Peace is one of the most prominent and visible ways that the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences demonstrates its commitment to international dialogue and diplomacy, as well as global citizenship. The Chair’s programs frequently address topics of national and international importance and connects scholars, speakers and thought leaders of global prominence.
On Friday, April 19, 2013, the Baha’i Chair for World Peace and its incumbent, Dr. Hoda Mahmoudi, sponsored the conference “Reflections on Human Dignity” in collaboration with Dr. Michael Penn from the Department of Psychology and the Joseph International Center at Franklin and Marshall College. The event examined the meaning of the concept of human dignity, and the premise that it is the right of everyone to be treated with dignity. The conference also examined how human dignity may be linked to the unique nature of the of human beings; how efforts to promote and protect human dignity serve to advance the interests of humanity as a species; and how human moral and spiritual aspirations animate concern for human dignity at the level of personal relationships, relationships among and between ethnic and cultural groups and among and between nations.
The conference was opened by a dance performance by UMD students titled “One Billion Rising: Girls Run the World.” Welcoming remarks were then given by Associate Dean Wayne McIntosh from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and by Dr. Mahmoudi. Reflecting on the dance performance and by Dr. Mahmoudi’s longstanding efforts to ensure that men are included in efforts to promote the welfare and agency of women worldwide, Dean McIntosh was moved to say that women will be the force driving the establishment of global peace.
Eight distinguished speakers representing multiple disciplines made presentations that explored the meaning of the concept of human dignity and efforts to promote and protect human dignity. These included Dr. Jack Donnelly, the world’s foremost authority on human rights and human dignity; Dr. Michael Penn, professor of psychology and chair of the psychology department at Franklin & Marshall and co-author of Overcoming Violence Against Women and Girls: The International Campaign to Eradicate a Worldwide Problem; Dr. Barbara Finkelstein, Professor and Distinguished Scholar at the International Center for Transcultural Education; Dr. Michael Karlberg, author of Beyond the Culture of Contest; and Sania Anwar, J.D., a noted human rights activist on behalf of women and girls in Pakistan.
These speakers were joined by UMD’s three Peace Chairs, each housed in BSOS: Dr. Mahmoudi; Lisa and George Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace Suheil Bushrui, the previous incumbent of the Baha’i Chair; and Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development Shibley Telhami.
Among the conference attendees were students from Franklin and Marshall College, students from the University of Delaware, and students, faculty and staff members from the University of Maryland.
The afternoon session of the conference opened with an inspiring performance by the lyric tenor David Cerpa, who sang “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot.
The work and impact of the Baha’i Chair is made possible through the generosity of donors and supporters. Recently, an anonymous donor made a gift of $100,000 that will support the Chair’s mission and programming.
“This generous gift will support two visiting scholars from China during the 2013–14 academic year. The two scholars will be conducting research related to pathways to peace. The culmination of their research will result in two separate book publications,” Dr. Mahmoudi said.
The proceedings from the conference will be available in published form. For updates and for more information about the mission and programming of the Baha’i Chair, please visit www.bahaichair.umd.edu.
Published on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 12:35PM