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Mission

 

The Institute for Global Civilization (IGC) is devoted to bringing spiritual perspectives and moral principles into the public discourse on social development and civilization building. Its work arises from an awareness of the inherent nobility in human nature, draws equally on scientific and religious systems of knowledge, and is organically linked to social experience. Through a process of research, action and consultation, the Institute’s activities aim to build the capacity of people of diverse backgrounds to participate in a collective discourse oriented toward the advancement of an emerging global civilization.

 

Background

 

IGC aims to facilitate Chinese participation in a global discourse on social development and civilization building, which has emerged out of the Bahá’í community’s worldwide engagement in conversations on the advancement of society. These conversations are held in a variety of settings ranging from local village and community gatherings to formal international academic and public conferences, up to participation in the discourses of the United Nations and its agencies. As part of this process, the Bahá’í community, in its collaborative work with community groups, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and governmental and international agencies on all continents, has been developing approaches to raise the capacity of individuals and groups to contribute to discourses related to the betterment of society, in the context of the deep challenges and transformations of the social order that accompany the emergence of a global civilization. 

 

History

 

IGC is the fruit of over a century of exchanges between scholars and members of Bahá’í communities in China and abroad. As early as the 1910s and 1920s, prominent Chinese leaders and intellectuals such as Sun Yat-sen, Hu Shi and Du Yaquan had become familiar with the principles expounded in the Bahá’í teachings. By the 1920s and 1930s, Tsinghua University President Cao Yunxiang, agricultural reformer Liao Chongzhen and the visiting American journalist Martha Root promoted more systematic discussion and research on the Bahá’í teachings in a variety of academic and social settings. The Chinese diplomat Hilda Yen, as one of three co-founders of the Bahá’í International Community’s Office at the United Nations in 1946, contributed to introducing Bahá’í principles into the UN’s discourses on building world peace, global governance and the equality of men and women. Starting in the 1990s, exchanges between Chinese scholars and academic institutions and Bahá’í communities have gradually expanded in breadth and depth. IGC was established in 2007 as a non-profit organization in Hong Kong, in order to further develop and facilitate these exchanges.

 

Approach

 

In all of its activities, IGC aims to promote a collaborative approach to the generation of public discourse. We see “discourse” as a form of communication leading to the generation of knowledge about social reality, in which participants from different backgrounds, adopting a humble posture of learning, share their questions and insights with the aim of attaining an ever more comprehensive and coherent understanding of the issue at hand. Such a discourse aims to increase coherence between concepts, empirical data and social practice, oriented towards the long-term vision of advancing the progress of civilization. Although it takes place on an intellectual level, such a discourse is part of a broader, organic process of consultation, action and reflection – in which a conceptual framework that informs action, can in turn be enriched by the learning arising from action. This discourse is rooted in the principle of the oneness of humanity and aims to contribute to the emergence of world unity. On this foundation, IGC strives to create spaces in which people of different backgrounds can collaboratively engage in a humble and earnest process of investigating issues relevant to the well-being of humanity.

 

IGC activities include participants from different social backgrounds, disciplines, and ethnic and religious backgrounds. Although IGC’s original inspiration comes from the teachings and experience of the Bahá’í Faith, its activities are of an academic and non-religious nature, and welcome perspectives from all faiths and philosophical perspectives. Although our activities are rooted in academic research, teaching and exchange, we consider that the generation and application of knowledge is an activity in which all people can and should participate.

 

IGC activities strive to promote a culture of collective discourse which is free of partisanship, sectarianism, dogmatism, polemics and divisiveness. Rather, we aim to promote a discourse which draws on the noble aspirations of the human spirit, begins and ends with a humble posture of learning and investigation of truth, and encourages variety and differences in points of view while at the same time strengthening the unity and friendship amongst the participants.

 

Partners

 

Most IGC projects and activities are jointly carried out with institutional partners. While most of our partners are academic institutions, they also include government agencies, NGOs and religious communities. Long-term exchanges or formal collaborations have been established with Shandong University (1996), the Institute for World Religions of the China Academy of Social Sciences (2000), the Research Centre of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (2006), the Institute of Religious Studies of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (2007), the Development Research Centre of the State Council (2010), Peking University (2012) and Guangzhou University (2012). The themes of collaborative research and conferences have included the history, teachings, community and social engagement of the Bahá’í faith; the translation of religious texts; hermeneutics; interfaith dialogue; science, religion and development; religion and social harmony; spiritual education; community building; social development; world citizenship; global governance; and the oneness of humanity (Datong).

 

Lines of action

 

Within the framework of its mission, IGC organizes or participates in two main types of activities, which are mutually enriching and reinforcing. The first is formal academic activities in collaboration with our institutional partners, including academic conferences, seminars, lectures, research projects, and publications.

 

The second line of action involves collaborative discussion, study and research in more informal settings with participants of a range of disciplines and backgrounds. The purpose of this discourse is to develop the capacity to contribute to and engage with an evolving conceptual framework that can guide and inform the work of applying spiritual principles and scientific knowledge to the process of building a global civilization in the Chinese context. This activity takes place in small-scale, informal workshops and discussions; the insights generated from such activities may be drafted in the form of a discussion paper, such as the document “Rethinking the nature of religion and its relationship with society”, issued in 2014.