Day 1 in Iran

Post by Ted Koontz, Professor of Ethics and Peace Studies at AMBS

Mural of Mary and Jesus (Tehran)

Mural of Mary and Jesus (Tehran)

Anita, Sally, Loren, Jim, Daryl, Cindy and I arrived safely and on time at about 12:15 this morning, getting to the hotel around 4. After some shopping (the women are quite striking in black from head to toe!), orientation walks, and lunch we set out for our first appointments. We started at Shahid Beheshti University on the north side of the city. The President greeted us warmly and described some of the many programs of the university which has about 600 faculty members and 12,000 students. They have a number of exchange programs currently and are interested in pursuing other ones. It seemed that our interests and institutions might connect best with their program in human rights and we proceeded to their building for conversation with leaders of that faculty. Their program is the only UNESCO Chair of Human Rights, Peace, and Democracy in the region and it is divided into five main groups: human rights, peace, democracy, philosophy and religion, and bioethics. In addition to academic work in these areas, they work with other organizations, especially in the areas of women’s and children’s rights. They seek to study how human rights are understood in different cultures and countries and look for a common understanding of human rights grounded in the reality that we are all human. Exchanges and workshops or conferences are good possibilities for exchanges.

At the Organization for Cultural and Islamic Relations, our host organization for the trip, Dr. Musalvi, its president, greeted us and explained its function. Its purpose is to coordinate educational and exchange program outside of Iran in order to improve and expand mutual understanding. This includes programs in a wide range of arts and religion, most coordinated by about 60 offices worldwide, and through Iranian Embassies. Emphasizing the importance of democracy and religion together guiding society wisely, he noted that neither one is sufficient alone.

He indicated that they had had good experience with Mennonites previously and openness to future cooperation. Simply being present with one another is one important way to increase understanding, especially because the media is often misleading. Coming together could take the form of jointly planned conferences, seminars or attendance at one another’s events. They would be happy to recommend experts for participation in conferences we might plan. Student and faculty exchanges are also possible. Topics of interest would include various issues in the social sciences, philosophy, social ethics, mysticism, etc. Because they coordinate exchanges between Iran and other countries, they would like to be involved in the basic planning of cooperative activities, (no signed MOUs) though we could respond directly to inquiries from universities and follow up on planning directly once basic agreement in reached.

At supper we had wonderful food (again), but discovered that one stereotype of Iranians is untrue. Our waiter demonstrated that not all Iranians are friendly and hospitable! He must have had a hard day.

We are looking forward to SLEEP, and to leaving tomorrow morning at 7:30 for a full day of appointments.

Tomorrow’s post will be written by Sally Weaver Sommer from Bluffton University.

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One Response to “Day 1 in Iran”

  1. Zahra Karimi Says:

    Hello there
    Well I got to know the site with one of my dearest Mennonite friends. I really enjoyed reading about the first day of your trip. (the unfriendly behavior of the waiter was perhaps because of the hard day!). Wearing black clothes are not a force here in Iran; ladies could wear some light colored clothes, as you call it, from head to toe.

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