Talks for Cambridge Festival 2023

Education: The Evolutionary Engine of Civilisation

Date: Sunday, 26 March, 3:00pm-4:30pm
Venue: Sidney Sussex College, William Mong Hall, Sidney Street, CB2 3HU

Ongoing, accelerating and escalating global crises may lead some to despair. From an evolutionary perspective, however, this may not be just another random resurgence of trouble and conflict in the world: we may be experiencing birth pangs of the next phase in the unfolding of civilisation.

This period of intense transformation is ripe with occasions for genuine breakthrough as well as spectres of catastrophic breakdown. Humankind is becoming painfully aware of its essential interdependence and unity – learning, in profound and tangible ways, that “the earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens” (Bahá’u’lláh, circa 1880).

From simple bands of hunter-gatherers, our species has emerged, through increasing complexity and deepening cooperation, into tribal societies, city-states and nation-states. Now we stand at the threshold of an emerging world society and the possibility of global civilisation.

There is a fundamentally ethical dimension to this evolution: from primordial animalistic egoism and self-love, advancing towards various degrees of limited social altruism and loyalties, and now approaching the possibility of genuine universal coherence and belonging.

Alongside this ethical dimension, workings of an educational momentum can be seen: human potential would have remained dormant, unrealised, were it not for some form of active educational influence – left to mere ‘cumulative self-learning’, neither individual humans nor our collective species could have attained to their inherent potentialities.

The effects of this educational impulse run like a story line in the annals of history. Responding, though reluctantly, to the promptings of this momentum, peoples have progressively attained to the intellectual, moral and spiritual capacities that serve to civilise human character. Today, the opportunities offered by a profoundly global perspective give this age-long process entirely new dimensions and new meaning, opening civilisational prospects undreamt of in earlier ages.

Exploring this narrative of recurring social, ethical and spiritual education can help us to understand the dynamics of constructive and destructive forces in history.

Dr Partow Izadi explores these insights in a conversational session organised by the Cambridge University Bahá’í Society. Dr Izadi is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lapland. His areas of expertise include systems theory, global education, evolution of civilisation and universal ethos.

Registration page:

‘Eleven’: The Rising Global Population and the Future of Humanity

Date: Wednesday, 29 March, 8:00pm-9:00pm
Venue: Online (Zoom Webinar)

United Nations projections show the global population reaching 11 billion and the world economy growing 500% by the end of this century. Can the planet accommodate 3 billion more people when our current ecological footprint already exceeds Earth’s biocapacity? This question will preoccupy humanity throughout this century, affecting everything we do from designing cities to producing food to using energy. Our mission is daunting. Somehow, we have to support 40% more people, raise billions out of poverty and reduce our ecological footprint to the sustainable level it was when we were just 4 billion. However, every facet of our social, economic and political order – indeed the totality of the dominant global culture – compels us to maintain the status quo. Clearly, we have to change direction.

Join Paul Hanley, journalist, author of the award-winning book ELEVEN and Bahá’í, as he considers how we got into this predicament and maps a way forward.

Paul is a recipient of the Canadian Environment Award, the Meewasin Conservation Award, the Saskatchewan Sustainability Award and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Food System Vision 2050 Prize. His book ELEVEN received the 2015 University of Saskatchewan President’s Award for Non-fiction. His biography Man of the Trees: Richard St Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist features an introduction by Jane Goodall and a foreword by HRH King Charles. He has published a total of six books and 1,600 articles on the environment, sustainable development, agriculture and other topics. Alongside his writing, Paul has extensive practical experience in organic gardening, living on an off-grid acreage in Saskatchewan for 10 years, and helping to build Saskatchewan’s organic farming movements.

Registration page:

Update: You can watch a recording of this talk on our YouTube channel at:

Talks for Cambridge Festival 2022

Philosopher, Mystic, Social Reformer, Promulgator of Peace: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844–1921) in Biography and Three Short Stories

“About the greatness of this man and his power no one who met him could entertain a doubt”, Professor E.G. Browne, Cambridge, 1890.

The speaker, Sean Hinton studied ethnomusicology at Cambridge University, served as Mongolia’s first honorary Consul-General in Australia, and is CEO of the Soros Economic Development Fund. He is joined by story tellers Tebogo Khutsoane, Sarah Percival and Ismael Velasco.

Online event, 8 – 9pm, Sunday 3rd April 2022
Registration link:

Update: To view the recording of this talk, visit our YouTube channel:

Climate Change, Global Pollution, Biodiversity: Can we Turn the Corner?

To overcome our environmental crises, we need to rethink our human purpose, our economy and our systems of governance, with young people in the lead.

Dr Arthur Dahl studied at Stanford University and worked as a senior official of UNEP. He was involved in drafting Agenda21 for the Rio Earth Summit and coordinated UN Earthwatch. He is president of the Baha’i-inspired International Environment Forum.

Online event, 8 – 9pm, Thursday, 7th April 2022
Registration link:

Update: To view the recording of this talk, visit our YouTube channel:

Cambridge Festival: “New Perspectives on Justice”

Layli Miller-Muro explores the revolutionary Baha’i concept of justice as a means to unity and how we can achieve it. Layli Miller-Muro is CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center, which provides free legal and social services and engages in advocacy on behalf of immigrant women and girls fleeing human rights abuses. Layli founded the organization in 1997 following her involvement as a law student in a high-profile case that set national precedent and revolutionized asylum law in the US.

Since 2001, Layli has led the Tahirih Justice Centre in its service to more than 27,000 women and children ( Prior to joining Tahirih, she was an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, Board of Immigration Appeals. Tahirih gained recognition for innovative use of pro bono services in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. She was listed in the Newsweek/Daily Beast 150 most fearless women. She is a frequent lecturer and has appeared in numerous news outlets including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. The talk will be followed by discussion.

Date/Time: 7:30pm-8:30pm on Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Talk will take place online (book free tickets through Eventbrite to receive link)

Booking/Registration page:

Update: View a recording of the talk on YouTube.

Cambridge Festival: “Post-COVID Recovery and the Future of Global Economics”

By late-September 2020 the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center had tracked more than 33 million confirmed cases of the virus globally, causing close to 1 million deaths. The remarkable speed, global reach, and ease with which the virus crossed borders and is being transmitted between people has sent stock markets tumbling worldwide, with the World Bank projecting the deepest global recession since World War II. This excessive volatility, the sudden drop in confidence by consumers, and severe knock-on economic and social effects have resulted overnight in a swift contraction in cross-border finance, trade, air travel, and most other sectors of our interconnected global economy, as well as millions of job losses. This talk and discussion will examine measures to overhaul our system of global economic and social governance, both to respond to the immediate challenge of recovery from COVID-19 and to redouble efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The talk draws on the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. 

Dr. Augusto Lopez-Claros is a Cambridge alumnus, and an international economist with over 30 years of experience in international organisations, including most recently the World Bank where he was director of the Global Indicators Group. Previously he was Chief Economist and Director of the Global Competitiveness Program at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, and Professor of Economics at the University of Chile. In May 2018, he was co-awarded the New Shape Prize for his work on Global Governance and has recently co-authored two books: ‘Equality for Women = Prosperity for All’ and ‘Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21stCentury’ published by Cambridge University Press.

Date/Time: 8:00pm-9:00pm on Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Talk will take place online (book free tickets through Eventbrite to receive link)

Booking/Registration page:

Update: View a recording of the talk on YouTube.

Cambridge Festival: “Working for Change: How Social Action Creates Impact”

Can positive impact and change at a local, national or even international level arise from our individual actions? Katina Jones challenges existing norms typically associated with our professional goals. Founder of the United Nations NGO Centre for Equality, and a group of organisations dedicated to health, education, philanthropy and human rights, she is in conversation with Jenifer Varzaly from the Cambridge University Baha’i Society. The discussion will explore topics related to meaningful work, personal drive and passion, and what each of us can do to make an impact in challenging times, whether large or small.

Date/Time: 12:00pm-1:00pm on Saturday, 27 March 2021

Talk will take place online (book free tickets through Eventbrite to receive link)

Booking/Registration page:

Update: View a recording of the talk on YouTube.

Festival of Ideas 2019

The Cambridge University Bahá’í society has organised two events this year as part of the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas. Both events will take place on Saturday, 19 October 2019.

Educating for sustainable peace in a turbulent world

Saturday 19 October: 6:00pm – 7:00pm

University Centre, Granta Place Mill Lane, CB2 1RU

In a world increasingly destabilised by socio-political, economic and environmental conflict, is there hope for sustainable peace? A talk by Dr Sara Clarke-Habibi.

Dr Sara Clarke-Habibi has worked on peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries including Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Mexico and Cyprus. Drawing on education research, Dr Clarke-Habibi discusses how our understanding of the prerequisites of sustainable peace have changed over the last half-century in response to two global processes and links these insights to a Baha’i perspective on the future of the world.

Sara Clarke-Habibi researches on education in contexts of armed conflict, forced migration and mass violence. Sara holds a PhD in Education from the University of Cambridge (UK), an MA in Conflict Resolution from Landegg International University (Switzerland), and a BA in Ethics, Society and Law from the University of Toronto (Canada). She teaches on the intersection of education with issues of armed conflict, genocide, transitional justice, peacebuilding, social healing and reconciliation.

Organised by the Cambridge University Bahá’í Society for the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Booking website for tickets (free entry, open to all):

Change on the global stage: what makes an ‘International community’?

Saturday 19 October: 8:00pm – 9:00pm

University Centre, Granta Place Mill Lane, CB2 1RU

Global challenges call us to unprecedented new levels of international cooperation. Will we rise to the occasion?

Maja Groff is an international lawyer based in The Hague. She is a graduate of Harvard, Oxford and McGill Universities, and was a winner of the prestigious 2018 New Shape Prize for proposing global solutions to humanity’s problems.

Organised by the Cambridge University Bahá’í Society for the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Booking website for tickets (free entry, open to all):

Festival of Ideas talks 2018

The Cambridge University Bahá’í society has organised two events this year as part of the Cambridge University Festival of Ideas. Both events will take place on Friday, 19 October 2018.

Rethinking governance

Rethinking Governance (6-7pm)
Sean Hinton discusses new conceptual frameworks for governance that give expression to individual freedom and embody our highest aspirations.

Sean Hinton is Director of the Economic Advancement Program for the Open Society Foundations, and CEO of the Soros Economic Development Fund. He is a graduate of Cambridge University and MIT. He has served as Mongolia’s first honorary consul-general in Australia, having worked extensively in China and Mongolia. Sean has lectured around the world, most recently at Oxford University and at Stanford University for the Global Speaker Series. He is also on the international advisory board of the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland.

Register for this talk.

An end to inequality

An end to inequality? (8-9pm)
The assumption that human beings are primarily self-interested, and that our behaviour reveals our underlying preferences, has driven the progress of economics as a discipline – and thus many of the economic policies leading to the exacerbation of inequality. Professor Nava Ashraf will talk about recent research in economics questioning this assumption, and drawing it closer to what many religious and philosophical thinkers have understood about human nature – a radical change with strong implications for economic inequality, justice and prosperity. In her talk she will draw on Bahá’í perspectives on economics.

Nava Ashraf is Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Research Director of the Marshall Institute. She has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for Service, and was the youngest ever recipient of the Order of British Columbia.

Register for this talk.

Both talks will take place in the following venue:
Hicks Room
University Centre
Granta Place, Mill Lane
Cambridge CB2 1RU

The talks are free and open to all, but please register using the links above so that we know how many people to expect at each talk.

Festival of Ideas talks 2017

Curiouser and Curiouser: A Quest for Truth

Psychologist Dulamdary Enkhtor explores the idea of truth through the lenses of neuroscience, spirituality, physics, mathematics, arts, mysticism and the Baha’i Writings.

Dr. Dulamdary Enkhtor has worked in her native Mongolia, as well as the UK, USA, Sweden, Czech Republic, Vietnam, India, Israel, Namibia, Indonesia and Serbia for a range of organisations including the World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, and Emory University. Currently she is global organisational effectiveness consultant at Roche, Switzerland. She holds a PhD in Psychology and an MSc in Development Studies, and carried out her undergraduate studies in Social & Political Sciences and Modern & Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge.

Organised by Sidney Inspirations Society and the Cambridge University Baha’i Society

Can Truthfulness and Integrity Be Taught and Nurtured?

Truthfulness and honesty are the foundations of a cohesive and progressive society. But can these virtues be taught and nurtured in the classroom? A talk by Geoff Smith and Nita Forouhi.

Talk and discussion, 6-7 pm. Followed by live music on virtues-based themes for those who wish to stay.

Organised by Sidney Inspirations Society and the Cambridge University Baha’i Society

About the speakers:

Geoff Smith is a Head Teacher who has introduced innovative character development programmes in UK schools. He is on the executive team of the Association for Character Education and was part of the advisory group for the ‘Framework for Character Education’, a resource for schools produced by the University of Birmingham.

Professor Nita Gandhi Forouhi from the University of Cambridge draws on the example of the largest school in the world, in Lucknow, India, inspired by Gandhi and the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. The only school in the world to have been awarded the UNESCO prize for peace education, the City Montessori School aims to impart values based education.

Festival of Ideas talks 2016

From Conflict to Compassion: The Transformation of Human Society

Movement from a world of turmoil and conflict to one of compassion and justice necessitates transformation of both society and individuals. Editor and publisher Dr May Hofman discusses how we might achieve this.

May Hofman is director of George Ronald Publishing, having worked previously for the United Nations in the Bureau of Publications of the International Labour Office. She was a founding member of the Oxford University Bahá’í Society in the 1960s, where she gained an undergraduate degree in music and a doctorate in musicology.

Jointly organised by the Cambridge University Bahá’í Society and Sidney Inspirations Society, Sidney Sussex College

The Movement of Populations: Challenging Our Assumptions

The movement of populations presents an opportunity to revisit our assumptions about human nature and the operation of society. Rachel Bayani challenges our actions and reactions to this phenomenon.

Rachel Bayani is Representative to the European Union of the Bahá’í International Community. Rachel has served as a justice and home affairs counselor to the Permanent Representation of Luxembourg to the EU, dealing mainly with asylum and migration issues, and has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina both with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and with the peacekeeping mission. She has a law degree from the University of Sorbonne in Paris and an LLM in international law from Cambridge University.

Organised by the Cambridge University Bahá’í Society