Education Under Fire: A Report from the Front Lines
The Education Under Fire (EUF) Fall Campaign is providing tools for friends around the United States to initiate screenings and conversations about the documentary of the same name in a wide variety of social spaces. As of the writing of this article, 959 free Education Under Fire DVDs have been ordered by those joining the Free DVD Program, and 3,720 individuals have signed the Friends of the BIHE (Baha’i Institute for Higher Education) Open Letter that will be delivered to Iranian authorities in December.
So how are Baha’is and their friends across the country contributing to the campaign? Here are four stories from different parts of the country in different social spaces with participants ranging in number from 8 to 71.
Bishop, California. The participants in a living-room screening in Bishop, California, expressed much empathy and consideration. One of the 15 participants asked this question: “Why do Baha’is obey such an unjust government, and why don’t they leave the country?” The conversation that followed allowed the friends to discuss the importance Baha’is place on education so that they can be of service where they live. The hosts distributed copies of the Friends of the BIHE Open Letter and read it out loud. They also had a computer available so that those present could sign the Open Letter.
Denver, Colorado. Eight friends at a screening-conversation in a Denver community center talked about the dynamic of the seemingly paradoxical concepts of acceptance and change—that is, to change something we do not like, we have to engage in conflict and fight so that change will come. The discussion turned to how, when one accepts the situation that is occurring in the moment, one can then take the next steps to create change free from anger and vengeance. This approach, actually, is the only way that true change can come about because, otherwise, one is engaging in the same hateful actions that underlie the original problem.
This conversation really emphasized the principle of constructive resilience, rather than protest, that underpins the Baha’i approach to social transformation.
Morrow, Georgia. Seventy-one people, including 62 students, attended a screening in Morrow, Georgia. The evening opened with a panel of presenters who explained the historical context of the Education Under Fire Campaign, making connections to civil-rights struggles in the United States. The event planners prefaced the screening of the EUF documentary with a short clip from Dr. Cornel West, a well-known African American scholar, in which he passionately condemns the Iranian government for its injustices against the Baha’is and praises the upright character and purity of spirit of Baha’is.
After the screening of the documentary, the audience was electrified, and there was a palpable spirit among the viewers. The students, most of whom were future teachers, had probing questions such as, “Why haven’t we heard about this in our classes?” and “Why isn’t this on the news?”
One future teacher committed to finding a way to teach about the persecution of the Baha’is in her future social-studies classes, together with discussions of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Another student asked whether this treatment of Baha’is in Iran is a modern-day Holocaust.
After the showing of the documentary, students brought out their iPads, cell phones, and laptops to sign the Open Letter and to join the Free DVD Program to host their own screenings.
Raleigh, North Carolina. The 19 developmental-English students at a Raleigh, North Carolina, screening were transfixed by the film and no doubt quite deeply moved by it. After the showing, they voiced surprise that such a situation still existed in the world, but there was not much time for discussion. In their written responses, these students, generally expressed gratitude for their own relatively unobstructed paths. Many of those attending will have to overcome considerable difficulties to complete their degrees–whether associate’s, bachelor’s, or other degrees. However, they found themselves putting their own struggles in perspective after watching the film. Also, many students drew a parallel between the prejudice experienced by the Baha’is and that experienced by African Americans in the United States, especially with the anecdote in the film describing Baha’is having to use separate water fountains. Students were encouraged to sign the Open Letter and join the Free DVD program.
The Education Under Fire Campaign team urges each of you to meditate on how you can add your voices to the Campaign and to take simple actions that lead to participating the Fall Campaign:
1. Read the EUF Campaign Vision Statement (http://www.educationunderfire.com).
2. Join the Free DVD program (on the EUF website, click on No. 2), and complete the survey after your screening (http://survey.educationunderfire.com/).
3. Sign and share the Friends of the BIHE Open Letter (click on No. 3 on the Web page.)
We hope to be reporting on your successful screening-conversation next month.