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Webinar

Ideas, Approaches, and Social Change: Emerging insights from the Bahá’í  Community's 75-year engagement with the United Nations

Jan 30, 2022


In her talk, Dr. Berger traces the experience of a community whose ideas about social order and the mechanisms of social change are refashioning familiar notions of politics as well as religion. Focusing on the Bahá’í International Community (BIC), an international non-governmental organization (NGO) which represents the worldwide Bahá’í community in global fora—most notably, at the United Nations.

Dr. Berger explores a unique and timely example of an approach to social change that goes beyond the divisive, antagonistic modes that tend to characterize political processes–one that lays the foundations for new patterns of relationships among individuals, communities, and governing institutions—patterns attuned to the needs of an evolving, interdependent global community. The lecture focuses on several elements of a framework that shapes the Bahá’í approach to politics, including a developmental view of history, and the principle of the oneness of humanity, and further, examines the role of the Administrative Order in shaping the BIC’s engagement with the international community.

The lecture outlines an effort, echoed in wider scholarship, to enlarge the moral imagination about the vision, values, structures, and protagonists needed to forge a social order to meet the needs of the age in which we live.

Contributors

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Julia Berger

Dr. Julia Berger is Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Religion at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. Her recent book, Rethinking Religion and Politics in a Plural World (Bloomsbury, 2021) explores the changing role of religion in the international arena, with particular attention to insights emerging from the Bahá’í community’s engagement with the United Nations. Prior to her current work, she served as Principal Researcher at the Bahá’í International Community’s United Nations Office (2004-2015), focusing on human rights, gender equality and social development and representing the Office in various UN fora. Her 2003 article about religious NGOs at the United Nations was one of the first to examine the field of international religious organizations in international affairs. From 2002-2004, Dr. Berger was Research Associate at Harvard University’s Program on Religion and Public Life, where she explored the role of religious organizations in the provision of social services in the US. She serves on the Leadership Team of the American Academy of Religion Women’s Caucus, is Co-Chair of the Academy’s Bahá’í Studies Unit and of the International Scholars Session of the Women’s Caucus. Dr. Berger serves on the Executive Committee of the Association for Bahá’í Studies—North America. She holds a PhD from the University of Kent, UK in Theology and Religious Studies and an M. Ed. in International Development and Education from the University of Toronto. She is a citizen of Poland, Canada, and the United States, and lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and twin daughters.

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