A Journey to Peace
Our academic and professional interests and insights have their roots in our background, education, areas of research and expertise, life experiences and observations, and personal beliefs and commitments. All of these issues have contributed to my intense interest in peace. The quest for peace is an intrinsic human quality. I became particularly aware of this fact when I began my work as a psychiatrist, which I did for some 30 years. During these years I was privileged to work with and help many individuals, families, and groups who shared with me as their doctor their deepest thoughts, feelings, hopes, aspirations, worries, and sentiments. And all of them, in the final analysis, were seeking peace—inner peace, interpersonal and intergroup peace, and, more generally, peace with life, with destiny, and with God. It was in the context of the constant search for peace on the part of my clients that I decided to dedicate all my efforts to the cause of peace.
I was born and raised as a member of a religious minority—the Baha’i Faith—in Iran; received my training as a psychiatrist in the United States and Canada; have lived on three continents—Asia, North America, and Europe—and have traveled to over 60 countries around the globe. Together, these experiences and opportunities have given me insights into various aspects of the multi-faceted expressions of collective human life in its micro-institutions such as marriage, family, and school; and in its macro-organizations such as religious groups, ethnic communities, and national as well as international entities.
My professional life as a psychiatrist and a university professor, as well as a university president, is divided into two distinct but interrelated periods. During the first period of thirty years (1963-1993) I taught and practiced psychiatry in the United States and Canada with a focus on marriage and family, violence and its prevention, death and dying, and the psychology of spirituality. The second period of 24 years thus far (1993-2017…) has been devoted to education for peace, leadership for peace, and peace-based conflict resolution. In 1994, I began an experimental Education for Peace Program. Every summer between 50-80 students from some 30 different countries were brought together for a two-week peace education program at Landegg Academy (later Landegg International University) in Switzerland. The average age of students entering the program was 12 years old and they were involved in the program for at least three consecutive summers. The objective of the program was to develop an effective syllabus of peace education with sustained and evolving effects. This successful seven-year experiment metamorphosed into the Education for Peace Program that has been implemented in many schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico, the United States, Canada, and Bermuda since 2000.
These two broad areas of experience—the psychological wellbeing and development of individuals and families, along with the welfare and peace of communities and nations—are interrelated and complementary. They both deal with the phenomenon of human relationships in their most profound and personal dimension, particularly in the context of marriage and family, and in their social and universal expressions with respect to issues of unity-based leadership and governance and the requirements for creating a global civilization of peace.
Peace is, at once, a psychological, social, and spiritual approach to life in all its manifold dimensions. Our thoughts, sentiments, and actions are dramatically altered, for better, when we replace self-centredness with all-centredness, otherness with unity in diversity, moral relativism with truthfulness, and self-righteousness with compassion and justice. These are some of the main facets of a spiritual worldview relevant to peace that along with psychosocial issues constitute the main components of my research and work on peace.
For bio details see H.B. Danesh in Biography sub-section.