Education Under Fire Update: Creative Showings and Conversations

In December 2011 the Education Under Fire documentary saw its first screening in Payson, Arizona. An Amnesty International group hosted the event, independent of any Bahá’í organizers. Then the Bahá’ís in Wilmette, Illinois, organized a screening of the film in collaboration with Amnesty International on Human Rights Day, December 10. In St. Petersburg, Florida the first screening of the film in a high school took place.

In the ensuring year the campaign has come a long way. The campaign has hundreds of collaborators around the nation, and a growing population of supporters who now know about the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) and the situation facing the Bahá’ís in Iran.

A brief story from a university in Atlanta where a Bahá’í has successfully organized screenings with multiple professors shows what a single person can do.

In one class we spoke about religion, social justice, and other related topics. After class I spoke to [the professor] and mentioned the Education Under Fire campaign. She said she had heard of the campaign through a website she visited. . . . she asked me to bring the DVD to class so that we could view and discuss it.            

We scheduled the viewing for the day we were to discuss “social justice.” It fit perfectly. When she mentioned the documentary, about half the class had either already heard of it or seen it. They all heard about it through their previous courses such as Communication Law and Public Relations Writing. . . . I’m confident the topic is clearer for most now that they have interacted with the film at least for the second time.

Story after story from Education Under Fire organizers tells us that innumerable social spaces are open to the friends

  • to share the story of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education,
  • to talk about the themes of education and service, and
  • to elicit the insights and assistance of a growing number of supporters.

Here are a few more stories from around the United States for your encouragement and inspiration:

Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. I watched the DVD with my 17-year-old son and my husband, and we talked about how we can further promote the upcoming screening that our community has planned at the local library. My son is planning to post a flyer at school and possibly ask a teacher about showing the DVD in class.

Redding, California.  I was given ten minutes at my local Interfaith meeting, so I showed the first part of the DVD to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and various Christians (seventeen people in total), and I gave them two pages of information and offered to show the DVD for their groups. One person referred me to the local community-access TV station and another to the library that hosts public meetings and lists them on the monthly calendar. 

Huntsville, Alabama.  A Bahá’í from a neighboring community had recently been a witness before the International Criminal Court’s tribunal regarding the war crimes of the Iranian government. She shared her experiences of being imprisoned in Iran and her escape from the country. Several people invited her to be a part of presentations of the DVD.

Two of the ten people in attendance noted that they will ask for the DVD and sign the Open Letter–others had signed the letter, and one other had the DVD. One attendee, from Egypt, talked about her own experiences as a Bahá’í child/youth when authorities came to their homes to confiscate materials and threaten arrest.

Many people learned things they had never known about the BIHE and the educational difficulties of Bahá’ís in Iran: the BIHE has been in existence for over twenty-five years; the BIHE’s first facility was ransacked and shutdown in 1998; students travel many hours to attend classes; even after students leave Iran, they face difficulties getting their studies recognized; Iranian Muslims have been a part of helping the BIHE, risking their careers and lives to do so.

Pacifica, California. We encouraged all six of the participants to sign the open letter. The high school students present were quite moved by the stories told. The BIHE students’ hunger and drive for learning was so amazing, and all of the fields they were pursuing were to serve their community. The high school students are going to screen it at a club meeting at school. The STAR club (STudents Against Racism) is going to have presentations about different kinds of prejudice. My daughter will screen it and give a presentation on religious intolerance. That screening will happen in the spring of 2013.

Dayton, Ohio.  All twenty-five of my fellow students were encouraged to sign the Open Letter and join the Free DVD Program, and I will follow up with a reminder via email. Many questions were asked, such as basics about the Bahá’í Faith, why are its members persecuted, will Iran’s leaders really care if we sign this letter, can the Bahá’ís influence the government by joining it, and so on. Our time was limited to about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It was for a global religion course, one in which I gave a talk about the Bahá’í Faith three weeks prior. There was an engaged audience it seemed. The professor asked for us to do another presentation the following week for his American religions class.

What can you do?

We still have another month—the month of December—to reach the goal of 1,000 screenings and conversations. The current tally is approximately 500, but we know many more events have been conducted than have been reported.

The message of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education is in your hands to take into every social space, to hold discussions, and to use the film as a tool to engage in meaningful conversations about human rights.

If you are still thinking about planning an informal screening and conversation, go to http://www.educationunderfire.com, where you can review the Vision Statement, order a free DVD, and sign the Friends of BIHE Open Letter in support of the oppressed in Iran.

If you have held a screening and conversation, please go to http://survey.educationunderfire.com  and share your story. For each story helps the Education Under Fire task force and the U.S. National Spiritual Assembly learn from your efforts.