ABS Programme at Irish Summer School a success
This year the Irish NSA asked the ABS to organise a programme at the summer school in Waterford. This programme was run by Dr Masoud Afnan and Dr Seena Fazel. The Irish NSA considered the programme to have been a success and has stated that they would like it to be an annual feature of the school.
The ABS programme at the Irish summer school in Waterford, on the south east coast, was facilitated by Dr Seena Fazel and Dr Masoud Afnan. Dr Fazel's programme dealt with the study skills and was attended by thirty participants. The title was 'Correlating the Bahá'í writings – a study skills workshop'.
Two afternoons were spent exploring how to study the Bahá'í writings systematically and to consider how to correlate Bahá'í teachings with the needs and problems of the contemporary society drawing on some of the Bahá'í scholarship that has been written over the past decade. The focus of the sessions was on acquiring skills, particularly over how to access relevant information on the Bahá'í Faith.
Dr Afnan's programme dealt with moral development. The aim was to improve understanding of what this means and entails in order for us to develop such morality within the Bahá'í Faith and to influence moral development outside of the Bahá'í Faith. Session 1 focused on the definition and understanding of the concepts of moral development according to Bahá'í literature. Session 2 gave an understanding of the current non-Bahá'í agenda as it pertains to moral development. Session 3 gave an understanding of the current Bahá'í agenda, including a perspective of the current needs of the Bahá'í Faith. Session 4 gave examples of projects on moral development that have worked and why they have worked. Sessions 5 and 6 were a review of some of the more salient points, with a discussion of the ongoing 'homework' that was planned. These were essentially quotations from the writings for personal thought and reflection. There was also an opportunity for those present to plan activities on moral development, which will hopefully be carried out.
The course was held over 2 afternoons on the Friday and Saturday towards the end of the school. There were parallel activities during the afternoons, notably with speakers such as Adib and Lesley Taherzadeh on the Saturday.
Fifteen people attended the first session, and ten the second. Overall the course was well received.
The subject of moral development was chosen by the NSA as one of the 4 areas of external affairs that NSAs have been asked to focus on. The speaker illustrated how to go about preparing such a course with reference to the Bahá'í Faith and the outside world.
The scene was set initially with the information from the Universal House of Justice about the importance of moral development in external affairs, and then a paper on the moral imperative accessed through the WWW. Reference was made to the source of the Writings and which books were studied in preparation for the study course. A deepening based on the writings was then conducted, and points of understanding and insight were then discussed.
At the outset we set the aim of the study course was to come up with practical suggestions that may be of use to the NSA. The last quarter of the course was therefore dedicated to this end.
These suggestions are set out below:
Moral development in the corporate world - initially adopt a learning posture, talking to those in the corporate world about their perceived relevance of the subject, what currently goes on etc. In addition, it would be worth contacting the EBBF (European Bahá'í Business Forum) for their input. (they have already presented papers on this subject).
With regards to moral education there appears to be a difficulty in schools deciding what to teach and how to teach it. One suggestion is to offer teacher-training courses. At the World Centre, they are developing the idea of teaching. This theme can be further developed.
The government (in the UK) is very keen on teaching citizenship (see report of the commission on teaching citizenship in schools - Sept. 1998). This gives the Bahá'ís an ideal opportunity to promote one aspect of this - moral development. We could approach MPs, schools, and others under this banner, and offer to contribute to the discussion, and also directly by teaching the subject.
It may be possible to offer parenting classes – antenatally - to youth. Most parents are concerned about the moral character of their child.
Seek to work with other groups who share some of the goals of this aspect of the Bahá'í Faith's work - such as other religious organizations and charities e.g. I(N)SPCC.
There was some concern about terminology - whether the term 'moral' would put some people off, as religion or spiritual may also do. This may be the reason why the government chose the term 'citizenship'. It may of course be possible to utilise this term in the wider sense, as already used by the Bahá'ís. The conclusion was that the Bahá'ís should be wise in the way they approach others on this subject.
Activities such as the world citizenship project were thought to be useful.
Encourage Bahá'í scholars to participate actively in this arena, and publish papers in the non-Bahá'í arena.
As an aside, there was some discussion on the ethics of investing in different companies. Should Bahá'ís invest only in those companies with ethical ideals?
Interesting debate ensued - no conclusions.
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