Day 5 in Iran

Post by Loren Swartzendruber, President of Eastern Mennonite University

Dr. Loren Swartzendruber talks with Dr. Muhammad Legenhaussen of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute

Dr. Loren Swartzendruber talks with Dr. Muhammad Legenhaussen of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute

We began our last day in Qom with a visit to Mustafa International University (MIU). Established in 1979, MIU enrolls students from more than 100 countries and has centers in more than 60 locations around the world.

Two statements at the meeting were of particular interest to us. In response to our introductory statement that Mennonites are a small part of the Christian family, one vice president said, “You are not a small part of Christianity because your results are big.” Another fascinating comment, “In many settings around the world people are sitting at tables talking about war. They are sitting at the wrong tables. This is not the solution. They should be sitting at tables talking about peace.”

Yet another comment was instructive, “The political history of our countries is difficult; we need to go further back to our shared histories in the Abrahamic traditions.”

We also enjoyed a short visit to the home where Imam Khomeini lived before he was exiled. The house, located within walking distance to the Safa Hotel where we stayed last night, is currently being restored to its original appearance.

Later today, I was particularly pleased to visit the campus of Mofid University, where two EMU students, Paul Yoder and Josh Brubaker, presented papers for a Human Rights Conference in January 2007. Dr. Dan Wessner of EMU has also developed numerous relationships with faculty at Mofid.

The other members of the delegation will depart for Isfahan where they will enjoy the day tomorrow before returning home. I will leave the hotel in Qom by taxi at 10:00 p.m. to catch a 2:15 a.m. flight to Frankfurt and on to Washington Dulles, arriving home a few hours before beginning EMU homecoming activities for the weekend.

I have pages of notes to review and many reflections of these days to consider. The fact that we spent most of our time visiting universities in Tehran and Qom surely informs my immediate reflections, but I have been particularly impressed by the deep commitment to higher education that we sensed in every interaction. The government’s support for education is impressive. Most of the universities claim their beginning after the revolution and are therefore not yet 30 years old. The facilities are generally very good and most campuses are in expansion mode. One individual told me that Iranian families are typically ready to make considerable sacrifices to provide for the education of their children.

I asked the leader of one institution about their budgets and, as I suspected would be the case, he indicated their operational budget was smaller than our $28,000,000 at EMU though the institution had four times as many students from the B.A. level through Ph.D. programs. The fact that the government covers all of the expenses for many of the students certainly provides great incentive for students to enroll. Nevertheless, there are additional students who do have to pay for their education and they obviously make this a high priority. One can only imagine the impact this will have on the Iranian economy and society for years to come.

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2 Responses to “Day 5 in Iran”

  1. Gerald Says:

    Thanks for sharing these perspectives and especially the incisive quotes. We do indeed have much to explore with people of faith who can think with us about the things that make for peace. Travel well!

  2. Loren Swartzendruber Says:

    I arrived back at Dulles on schedule this afternoon, but it was not an easy trip home. The flight from Tehran was scheduled to leave at 2:15 a.m. but was delayed three hours, making for a very long night, and wishing I was with the group on Isfahan! Fortunately, the layover in Frankfort was originally scheduled for 6 hours and I made my connection easily.

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