From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Lord St. John of Bletso delivers annual Baha'i Chair lecture
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Fri, 21 Jun 2002 05:38:32 -0700
LORD ST. JOHN OF BLETSO DELIVERS ANNUAL BAHA'I LECTURE AT UNIVERSITY OF
MARYLAND, ISSUING A "CALL TO ACTION" ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Baha'i World News Service
For more information, visit http://www.bahaiworldnews.org or contact
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND, United States, 18 June 2002 (BWNS) -- Lord St. John
of Bletso, a member of the British House of Lords and noted authority on
environmental policy, told an audience of some 250 gathered at the
University of Maryland on 31 May 2002 that the environmental challenges
facing the planet will require both a passionate commitment to action as
well as a balanced approach that does not dwell on "gloom and doom"
A hereditary member of the House of Lords since 1978, Lord St. John was at
the University of Maryland as a guest of the Baha'i Chair for World Peace to
deliver the Eighth Annual Baha'i Chair Lecture, on the theme of
"Environmental Ethics and Public Policy."
The Baha'i Chair is an endowed teaching and research chair established in
1993 at the University's Center for International Development and Conflict
Management. Its mission is to develop alternatives to the violent resolution
of conflict by identifying and applying universal ethical and moral
Lord St. John began his talk by distancing himself from extremist or
sensationalist forms of environmentalism.
"Environmental pressure groups have started to believe that they must depict
worst case scenarios, and exaggerate their dire predictions, to 'scare' the
world into paying attention to this issue," Lord St. John said, adding that
such tactics often have the opposite effect by inducing a paralysis of will
and a desire to ignore complex and seemingly intractable problems.
Instead, what is needed is a new global consensus that will engage and
inspire people everywhere to make the changes and adjustments required to
live in harmony with the earth's life support systems, said Lord St. John.
He pointed to the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development, to take
place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002, as an opportunity to
forge this kind of consensus.
"The buzzword among the delegates around the hotels and conference centers
of Johannesburg in August will be 'sustainability,' but as United Nations
representatives readily agree, that word has become a pious invocation
rather than the urgent call to action that it should be," said Lord St.
John, who serves on the House of Lords select committee on trade, finance
and foreign affairs and will soon move to the select committee on
"It is crucial that the Summit succeed in showing that sustainability is far
from being as abstract as it sounds, but rather is a life and death issue
for millions upon millions of people around the world, and potentially the
entire human race," he said.
Lord St. John applauded the fact that representatives of business and
industry are expected to be present in Johannesburg in large numbers.
Voluntary codes of corporate social responsibility and innovative business
strategies that make sustainability profitable have shown that the business
community can make valuable contributions to sustainable development.
However, Lord St. John emphasized that it would be a mistake to allow market
forces alone to drive the globe's political, economic and social agenda. He
said educators, religious leaders, civil society organizations and other
social actors have a profound responsibility to exercise leadership. As an
example, he recalled a discussion with a representative of the Baha'i
community in the United Kingdom who identified three contributions that the
Baha'i community could make to the wider environmental cause:
"The first act is to draw upon its deep-rooted belief in the oneness and
interdependence of all nations," said Lord St. John. "The second is to
sustain a cross-cultural practice of consultation as a non-adversarial means
of making decisions and resolving conflicts. And the third is to pursue the
Baha'i tradition of facilitating learning and empowerment through social and
economic development projects."
In his remarks, Lord St. John also paid tribute to the work of the Baha'i
Chair and its approach to world problems. The current holder of the Baha'i
Chair is Professor Suheil Bushrui, an internationally known scholar of
English and Arabic literatures who is also an acknowledged expert on issues
of religious and cultural reconciliation.
"I'm keenly aware of this Baha'i Chair for World Peace and the incredible
work of Professor Bushrui in developing alternatives to the violent
resolution of conflict," said Lord St. John. "The Baha'i movement is
providing leadership in many fields, including ethics, and particularly
since 9-11 the world has needed to revise its priorities."
The audience included several university officials, including Dr. Brodie
Remington, Vice President for University Relations; Dr. Irwin Goldstein,
Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences; and Dr. Ernest Wilson
III, Director of the Center for International Development and Conflict
Management. Each made opening remarks expressing the University's
appreciation for the Baha'i Chair for organizing the annual lecture series
and for enriching the campus community in other ways. Also present were
members of the Baha'i Chair's Advisory Board, including the honorable Judge
Dorothy Nelson, the Chair's distinguished liaison to the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States.
"At the University of Maryland our intellectual achievements must be matched
by our achievements in promoting diversity, harmony and interdependence
among our faculty, staff and students," said Dean Goldstein. "In this regard
the Baha'i Chair for World Peace is one of our most treasured possessions."
He cited two undergraduate honors courses designed by the Baha'i Chair, "The
Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race" and "Global Ethics: Confronting the
Major Issues," as well as its lectures and publications.
Dean Goldstein also cited the international recognition brought to the
University by the Chair's activities. Last summer, for example, the House of
Lords held a Diplomatic Luncheon to recognize the Baha'i Chair's work. The
event was chaired by Lord St. John and brought together a large gathering of
Ambassadors, Members of Parliament, scholars and other dignitaries.
Lord St. John serves as a "cross-bencher," or non-partisan member of the
House of Lords, and his parliamentary interests include foreign affairs,
particularly South Africa and Hong Kong, environmental protection, science
and technology, and financial services. He is also a Trustee of the
Television Trust for the Environment and the Tusk Trust.
Professor Bushrui said he first met Lord St. John during travels to London
as a fellow of the prestigious Temenos Academy, whose patron is His Royal
Highness The Prince of Wales. In June 2001 Professor Bushrui was invited by
the Temenos Academy to deliver its annual L.M. Svinghi-Temenos Interfaith
"We have come to know each other in these circles," said Professor Bushrui,
"and I was struck by His Lordship's vision of world unity and his holistic
approach to issues of peace and reconciliation."
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