University of Pretoria Public Lecture on the Bahá’í Faith

Posted by on Nov 6, 2013

University of Pretoria Public Lecture on the Bahá’í Faith

On 14 March 2012, Iraj Abedian delivered a public lecture at the University of Pretoria entitled: “Social Development and Religion: A Bahá’í Perspective”. The lecture had been organized by the Dept of Theology of University of Pretoria. All theology students were obliged to attend as it was part of their academic curriculum.  In addition other interested individuals were free to attend.

The lecture was publicized on the university campus. In addition to the students from theology, political  science and sociology, the following high ranking university academics also attended the lecture:

 

  1. Professor  Johan Buitendag, The Dean of Theology,
  2. Prof. Antony Melck, Executive Director of the University of Pretoria,
  3. Prof.  Niek Schoeman, the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences,
  4. Prof. Maxi Schoeman, Head of Dept of Political Sciences
  5. Prof. Alfonso Groenewald, Dept of Theology;

 

Counsellor Christopher Songok together with NSA member Mrs Freshteh Samadi were present too. Also present were two members of the LSA of Tshwane, as well as Miss Khwezi Fudu of Bahai Diplomatic Office of the External Affairs Directorate. Members of Pretoria University’s Bahai Students Association as well as some Bahai students from Wits University participated too.

All in all, an estimated 600 people were present at the public lecture. The lecture explored the role of religion in the progressive evolution of socio-economic development on earth from a Bahai perspective. Explicit references to the Bahai Faith, its theological and socio-economic teachings were made right through the lecture.  The analysis presented argued that “….in nearly all spheres of human activity the dominance of the materialistic approach has caused systemic distortions with deep social, political and economic impact.” The reality is that :

“The debate about religion in the public sphere, however, has been driven by the voices and actions of extreme proponents on both sides — those who impose their religious ideology by force, whose most visible expression is terrorism — and those who deny any place for expressions of faith or belief in the public sphere. Yet neither extreme is representative of the majority of humankind and neither promotes a sustainable peace”.

The lecture concluded that: “Clearly, humanity stands at a crossroads of convergence or divergence between religion and social development. From the perspective of the Bahai scriptures, the concurrent transformation of the individual, the institutions, and the society is vital for the effective and constructive processes of social development. In this process, religion has a pivotal role to play.”

 

As part of their academic programme, all 250 theology students were expected to write a short ‘project report’ on the Bahá’í Faith based on the lecture. A short write up on the lecture is posted on the website of the university of Pretoria’s Theology Dept at the following URL address:

 

http://web.up.ac.za/default.asp?ipkCategoryID=4721&ArticleID=10564

The full transcript of the lecture is available from the National Secretariat.