Exploring new frontiers of learning about peace

December 6, 2012
Professor Hoda Mahmoudi, the third incumbent of the University of Maryland's Baha'i Chair for World Peace, speaking at her inaugural lecture, 16 November 2012.

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND, United States — The new incumbent of the Baha'i Chair for World Peace has been describing aspects of the program's future development.

Professor Hoda Mahmoudi was speaking at her inaugural lecture, held at the University of Maryland's Stamp Student Union Colony Ballroom on 16 November 2012.

The Chair's ultimate goal, Prof. Mahmoudi told a distinguished audience, is to explore new frontiers of learning about peace.

"The study of peace is more than the elimination of war and violence," she said. "Peace stems from an inner state – one that is supported by values. Here the aspiration for peace is an attitude, a will and a yearning which promotes the discovery and implementation of practical measures for peace."

Founded in 1993 within the University's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, the Chair is an endowed academic program that advances interdisciplinary examination and discourse on global peace, generating knowledge that promotes the interests and well-being of humanity.

"Knowledge must take us to new ways of conceptualizing the world as a unity," said Prof. Mahmoudi. "In this way we can carry out research in pursuit of knowledge that is relevant and valid to our ever-changing global community."

In a wide-ranging address, Prof. Mahmoudi particularly highlighted two subjects that are central to the current discourse about peace: human nature and the significant changes taking place in the world today.

"Many are resigned to the view that violence and warring are inborn human behavior and therefore unchangeable," she said. "Such beliefs are often responsible for – and lead to – a paralysis of will in all of us...which is not easy to reverse but must be overcome."

"Here the role of education is vital in removing unfounded views about human nature."

Conventional theories and ideas are also being tested on every side regarding the rapid rate of change in modern society, she said. "The depth and breadth of the interconnectedness of the global order cannot be denied. However, the lack of capacity and ability of governmental and social institutions to accommodate the on-going changes and in successfully addressing new problems is a serious threat to world peace and stability."

"The Baha'i Chair for World Peace has a unique responsibility to advance an educational process that will create a body of tested knowledge which can be applied to foster the emergence of a more just, secure and sustainable international order," she said.

Prof. Mahmoudi holds a Ph.D. in Sociology, an M.A. in Educational Psychology, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Utah. Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Maryland, she most recently served for 11 years at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel.

The inaugural address can be viewed online here.