Is There a Role for Religion in Global Integrated Education?

The answer to this seemingly obvious question is it all depends!!

Somehow a story from my primary years of school keeps popping up in my mind whenever I am asked a question such as the above.

The story was about a loving master and his wise servant engaged in a process of discourse and discovery.

 

One day the master informs his servant that they will be having a very special guest for dinner and if he could fix a dinner made of the best thing in the world. The servant knew exactly what his master was meaning and quickly embarked on making a list and going to the market to get what was necessary to make dinner with the best thing in the world. Dinner time came and the servant prepared a luscious meal with all kinds of fresh vegetables and fragrant rice garnished and decorated with golden Safran on top. In a special and elegant covered dish was placed what his master had asked for; the best thing in the world. The revered guest and the master got seated on the ground leaning on velvet cushions with the food in the middle of the room on the fanciest table cloth was fragrant and watering their mouth. The master could hardly wait for the dish he had asked for knowing that his wise servant never fails to win his admiration and surprise. Once he lifted the cover of the dish, he found his favorite dish made out of tongue!

 

The dinner went really well as was expected and soon after the dishes of sweets, baklava, and mint tea followed and the evening was rich with joyous laughter and profound and stimulating conversations. A week later the master summoned his servant and informed him of his special guest returning but this time he asked if he could include the worst thing in the world to be the main dish!! The servant welcomed the wish of his master and again made a list and made a trip to the day market buying all that he needed to prepare this special meal.

 

The evening came and the revered guest arrived they got seated on the velvet cushions and the beautiful dishes with fragrant food were placed on the special table cloth on the ground. The master was sure of his servant’s wisdom and wit but had no idea what the worst thing he asked for could be. With a sweet sense of expectation he lifted the cover and this time to his great surprise and confusion he found exactly the same dish as the last week in the pot. Thinking that his servant might have made a mistake while looking at the tongue dish, he asked, I wanted you to prepare a dish with the worst thing in the world! The servant kindly replied; my lord the tongue is the best and the worst thing in the world depending on how we use it!

Religion has been an integrated part of human civilization and education with mixed influence and outcomes. There is much evidence that proves how religion has been the worst that human civilization has encountered being the cause of wars, disunity, ignorance, prejudice, slavery, racism, violence, oppression, superiority, and poverty and also being the best and most powerful instrument, of progress, enlightenment, peace, compassion, knowledge, discovery, elimination of all prejudices, equality of women and men, independent investigation of truth, universal education, human rights, civilization, and humanity. The question is what are the conditions and parameters that make religion the worst or the best?

 

The answer again is it all depends. Religion is like medicine and humanity is the patient. The All-Knowing Physician diagnoses the disease and prescribes the proper treatment and healing medicine depending on the changing needs of humanity. Every ailment has its own particular remedy. One medicine and treatment do not fix all. Every age has its own problems, cares, and concerns and the religion of God like science has been progressively unfolding and has been renewed to answer the needs of the time. The light has been eternal and ever shining while the mirrors have come in succession like seasons to reflect that eternal light appropriate to the needs of the season of life and civilization. The medicine of equality of women and men, independent investigation of truth, the harmony of science and religion, the oneness of all humanity, universal education, the oneness of all religions, the oneness of God, the oneness of all humanity, world peace is absolutely vital for today’s humanity while it was not suited for the time of Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus or Muhammad.

Humanity is also like a growing and maturing child having different needs and concerns at each stage of its education and growth. Certain processes, teachings, and values have been good or even necessary in their infancy while at a different time and stage, the old instruction, teachings, processes, and values are counterproductive and even harmful. Religion has never been and was never intended to be the end but the means of progress, comfort, liberation, civilization, and salvation of humanity.

 

The very fact that we love our child does not change but how we express that love is different at age two versus at age twenty. During infancy and toddlerhood, the parent’s expression of love is manifest through monitoring and controlling much of the life and movement of the child, and very little choice is given to the small child. The same wise parent, however, does understand, that at age, 18 or older, the teacher must employ a different set of values, processes, and lessons to propel the growth and education of the person. Independent investigation of truth becomes vital for unfolding the capacities of the human mind. Religion is an instrument of learning and education for an ever-advancing civilization, also must change its values in order to properly address the needs of evolving and advancing humanity.

 

While the virtues of humanity such as love, friendliness, peace, patience, compassion, and forgiveness are eternal, the values that frame and define the worth, the place, and proper use of human virtues must change and evolve. It is about our values that we decide who must be at the receiving end of our unconditional love, friendliness, generosity, patience, humility, faithfulness, forgiveness, sacrifice, support, and humanity. In previous ages, the virtue of love was taught to be exclusively limited to those who were of one’s tribe, city, or nation. Religion in the past taught us to make a distinction between those who believe like us and those who do not, people of The Book or the infidels, those who share our nationality or race, and those who are less human because of their differences! Today nothing short of embracing all humanity whether believer or non-believer, like us or different from us, is acceptable if humanity values liberating itself from the dangers of disunity, ignorance, and extermination.

 

Religion and religious teaching must be appropriate to the needs of the time. ‘True religion must be an agent of peace, not war’. Today humanity is struggling to find its identity on a global stage living with neighbors of all shapes, beliefs, classes, creeds, and backgrounds. Today, what is necessary is to embrace those ideals and values that are universal and benefit and unite all humanity in one organic household, as cells of one body, waves of one sea, and fruits of one tree, not just one group or the other imposing itself on others. Today the true religion is the one that promotes harmony, oneness, peace, humanity, honesty, integrity, forbearance, compassion, and equality for all including women and men. Today religion must bring itself into harmony with science and understand the unifying value of a faith that is based on knowledge put into action for the betterment of the whole of mankind and an ever-advancing civilization.

 

Integrated education does have a special place for the universal values taught through the religion of God on the condition that those teachings are unifying and progressive in their teachings and answer the moral and spiritual needs of all humanity in one embrace at the present age.

 

I like to refer to remarkable research called Hard Wired to Connect done by the Commission on Children at Risk, a group comprised of 33 prominent children’s doctors, research scientists, and mental health and youth service professionals. Center for Global Integrated Education (CGIE) had the pleasure to invite Dr. Kathleen Kline Kovner, its chief executor to its 2004 international Forum. In this research, we see what it takes for communities of value to adjust the function and role of religion to be a healing medicine and not to act as the Opiate of the masses as some fear and observe it to be. The Commission suggests that “In order to create an authoritative community, one must understand its features.

 

The Commission lists what it considers to be the 10 main characteristics. They include:

It is a social institution that includes children and youth.

It treats children as ends in themselves.

It is warm and nurturing.

It establishes clear limits and expectations.

The core of its work is performed largely by non-specialists.

It is multi-generational.

It has a long-term focus.

It reflects and transmits a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person.

It encourages spiritual and religious development.

It is philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor.

 

Based on the challenges religion is facing today to weed its garden and be prepared to be an instrument of peace, understanding, humanity, and order, CGIE applauds Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation contests in the exploration of universal values that are good for all humanity and brings us closer to investigate the truth and the role of religion in creating oneness of all humanity and celebration of our shared humanity. These youth have been shortlisted for finals in the Tony Blair Faith Foundation competition; share the news and celebrate this unifying initiative.

Keyvan Geula is a licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist; LMFT. She received her Master of Science in Marriage, family, and Child Therapy from the University of La Verne, in La Verne, California. She employs the latest research in behavioral sciences, neuroscience, and the Baha’i principle of the oneness of all humanity to serve the well-being of her clients.

She offers her services as a clinician, lecturer, trainer, and supervisor to a global set of clients in person and online. In her clinical work, she incorporates the wisdom of the Baha’i Writings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research, Mindfulness meditation, and consultation skills, as well as knowledge of the spiritual self.

She is an adjunct professor of Behavioral Sciences at Citrus Community College, faculty of continued education at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches psychology online to students at Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.

She is the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Global Integrated Education (CGIE), a non-profit Baha’i-inspired educational organization, which explores oneness of all humanity, and teaches the integrated mind-body-spirit approach in education.

She has served for two years as the producer and host of a two-hour weekly live radio show for the Persian community in Sothern, California focusing on the role of the psychology of spirituality in personal and social transformation, creativity, emotional and social intelligence, and a greater sense of harmony in a global society. She also has been the host and producer of TV series called Transforming Human Consciousness for eight years. She regularly writes and blogs on www.cgie.org/blog on topics related to integrated education, the oneness of humanity, the powers of the human spirit in the betterment of global society, elimination of all prejudice, equality of women and men, and education reform. Some of her shows are posted on her; Keyvan Geula YouTube Channel.

Mrs. Geula has served in several Baha’i institutions since her youth in Iran and USA.

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