In a May 9 ceremony that was both moving and solemn, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States donated some 500 Bahá’í books and uncounted hundreds of Bahá’í periodicals to Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) in Claremont, California. An audience of CLU administrators, staff, faculty, and students and a number of national, regional, and local Bahá’ís were present for the event.
The program was organized by the Bahá’í Advisory Committee of CLU and opened with a welcome by its Chair, Roland Faber, a process philosopher and theologian at CLU who recently became a Bahá’í. Provost Philip Clayton described CLU as possibly the first interreligious university in the world, which is changing the paradigm of graduate education with diverse faiths cooperating to achieve the betterment, healing, and a peaceful future of humanity.
CLU was founded by the Claremont School of Theology (an ecumenical Methodist Graduate School, known for decades for its interreligious engagement and also for training Christian ministers) in cooperation with the Academy for the Jewish Religion (which offers Jewish and Rabbinical studies and trains rabbis, cantors, and chaplains) and with the new Bayan College (which offers Islamic studies and trains Muslim imams).
Claremont Lincoln has subsequently established graduate programs in Hindu, Jain, and Sikh Studies with the participation of their diverse religious communities. It has also welcomed the Buddhist University of the West as a partner in the Claremont Lincoln Consortium.
Red Grammer, an award-winning singer and song writer, enlivened the program with a song. Diane Hill, Dean at the University of California, Berkeley, offered a short overview of the Bahá’í Faith. Firuz Kazemzadeh spoke about the Bahá’í approach to international human rights.
Following a prayer sung in English by Keyvan Geula, Robert H. Stockman, Director of the Wilmette Institute, read a letter from the National Spiritual Assembly, stating it had donated the Bahá’í materials in the hope that “they may aid present and future Claremont scholars and students seeking to become better acquainted with the aims and purposes of this youngest of the world’s great religions, to familiarize themselves with the illustrious lives and works of its Central Figures, to broaden their knowledge of the momentous events that gave it birth, and to examine the dynamic process of growth that is propelling it to ever-greater prominence on the world stage.”
Dr. Stockman reviewed the types of literature included in the gift and explained their significance. Accepting the gift was President Jerry Campbell of CLU, who offered a few words of gratitude.
Dorothy Nelson spoke about the Bahá’í principle of equality of women and men, and Jeff Albert, a member of the Regional Bahá’í Council for California, outlined Bahá’í involvement in interreligious engagement and dialogue. Finally, Red Grammer led the entire audience in singing the prayer “Unite the Hearts of Thy Servants,” providing a beautiful and inspiring closing to the program.
After the event, a private dinner in the home of a local Bahá’í brought Bahá’ís, the presenters, and CLU faculty and administrators together for an informal discussion that explored the novelty of the Claremont Lincoln model as a university co-owned and co-operated by diverse religious communities and its impact on fostering and releasing the profound power of religion to transform lives and thereby effect social change.
Two CLU faculty of diverse religious background talked about their personal connections with Bahá’ís and how impressed they were with the Bahá’í teachings.
To view the presentation program, click here: http://videocenter.cst.edu/videos/video/1049/
The effort to donate materials continues, for the gift list is still missing some forty titles. The list can be found at http://wi.bahai.us/2013/02/27/we-need-books-and-periodicals/.