Professor and prince participate in seminar
WASHINGTON — Suheil Bushrui, the holder of the Baha'i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, participated in a seminar on "Faith and Social Responsibility" with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales last month.
Held at Georgetown University on 3 November 2005, the seminar brought together 40 senior religious leaders and scholars from various faiths.
The purpose of the event was for faith leaders to discuss best practices on faith-based practical initiatives on employment, education, and community regeneration.
The seminar featured a round table discussion in the presence of Prince Charles, who was visiting the United States. Seminar moderators were Dr. Jane McAuliffe, Dean of Georgetown College, and Professor John Esposito of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
During the exchange of ideas, Professor Bushrui said that although beliefs and social ordinances differ among faith traditions, all the religions are fundamentally united.
"Many spiritual practices, regardless of the particular religion, are categorically similar -- such as prayer, contemplation, meditation, and the recitation of scripture," Prof. Bushrui said.
"In fact, all the religions are united in the central role they ascribe to universal virtues such as love, empathy, humility, truthfulness, compassion, mercy, altruism, wisdom, justice, honesty, detachment, forgiveness, sincerity, righteousness, and doing good," he said.
"The teaching that we should treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated, an ethic enshrined in every world religion, clearly demonstrates the standard by which all interactions among the religions and their followers should be guided."
From within a framework of unity in diversity, Professor Bushrui likened the religions to different spiritual paths representing an outward expression of an underlying unity.
He also emphasized that faith is more than just belief; it also entails a way of life that includes social responsibility and action in the world.
"There is no true faith without a sense of responsibility toward others," he said.
Prof. Bushrui further noted that believers of all faiths have a duty to lay aside theology and ideology in favor of developing a unity of vision and a spirit of cooperation. Only in this way can religion and faith serve the best interests of humanity as a whole.
"In the Baha'i Faith, social responsibility can best be understood as service to humanity," he said. "In fact, within the Baha'i Faith such service is viewed as worship."
Participants had been invited to attend by the Prince of Wales, who is the heir to the British throne, or by one of the following institutions: the British Embassy, the Dean of the Georgetown College, the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, the Office of the President at Georgetown University.
In addition to Prof. Bushrui as a Baha'i representative, seminar participants represented a broad spectrum of religious faiths and traditions, including Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and many others. Additionally, broad geographical representation on a national level was attained thanks to the fact that the participants hailed from many different regions of the United States.
Prof. Bushrui has held the Baha'i Chair for World Peace since 1992, when the Chair was founded. He will retire on 31 December 2005. John Grayzel, an international development specialist, has been selected to become the next holder of the Chair, in January 2006.
Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, was founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll.
(For a story on Professor Bushrui, see http://news.bahai.org/story.cfm?storyid=282)