Day 2 in Iran

Post by Sally Weaver Sommer,  VP and Dean of Academic Affairs at Bluffton University

Ted Koontz (right) with professor and students at Tarbiat Modarres University

Ted Koontz (right) with professor and students at Tarbiat Modarres University

October 5 was a full day of varied impressions and experiences.  Our first stop after breakfast was Tarbiat Modarres University.  This university was extablished in 1982 after the revolution.  With the new government’s strong commitment to higher education and the fleeing of many of the country’s university professors after the revolution, the government recognized the need for an instituion that would focus on preparing Iranians to teach at the university level.  5500 graduate students study at this beautiful new campus.  During the visit we learned about the various faculties of the university and toured several of the science labs.  We learned of the struggles to get needed equipment because of sanctions against the Iranian government.

Our next stop was the Armenian Orthodox Church.  There we visited with Archbishop Sarkissian.  He shared with us the experience of the Christian Church in Iran.  Armenians have been in Iran since the 17th century.  According to the Archbishop, the church enjoys a good relationship with the Iranian people and government.  The church has two seats in the Parliament.  We had the opportunity to experience a few minutes of the church’s worship service and hear the beautiful choir music.

Tehran University is Iran’s highest ranking university.  There we had an engaging conversation with administrators and faculty members of the Faculty of World Studies in their brand new building over a delicious lunch.  The faculty is newly established and eager to make connections with universities in North America.

The Iman Khomeini Research Center was the last institution we visited.  The center is devoted to studying the thought of Iman Khomeini.

During the day I gained an impression of Iran as a society on the move.  As we traveled through the city, we saw lots of new construction.  The universities are clearly focused on growth and are moving forward with clear visions of their individual missions.  They are proud of what they are accomplishing and, from what we have seen so far, rightly so.

A common theme in both the Christian and the Islamic centers we visited was the commonality of Christian and Islamic faiths.    We were told that a good Muslim follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Our hosts shared with us their conviction that if all of us practiced our faith there would be no wars between us.  One man stated emphatically that the term “religious wars” was a “nonsense concept.”  All prophets have come to reduce war and bring justice.  A faculty member at Tehran University stated that our academic study should work for the reduction of pain in the world.

One of the realities that the Iranian people have to live with daily that is not necessarily evident to visitors is the constant threat of attack.  One faculty member shared with us that the other day as his family was watching television, his 8-year-old son asked him, “Are they going to kill us all?”  In a conversation later in the day, our host shared with us how living with this daily stress affects the health of the people of Iran.

Our day ended with a wonderful meal shared with Iranian university students in a beautiful garden setting.  We had delightful convesations with these bright and engaged young adults who were willing to share their ideas with us and were eager to hear our perspective on a variety of issues.

Throughout the day we enjoyed the warm Iranian hospitatlity that Daryl and Cindy promised us.  At each visit we were served fruit, pastries, candies and/or drinks.  In addition, our suitcases will be full of the many gifts we have received by our Iranian hosts.

Stay tuned for the next posting by Anita Stalter fromGoshen College.

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