Anderson, Indiana

Anderson University hosts Middle East seminar

Fri, 2011-03-11 10:31 -- univcomm
March 11, 2011

Shortly after the spirit of the Egyptian uprisings spread to Libya and Bahrain, Anderson University professor Dr. David Murphy went to work organizing a forum to discuss the recent tensions.

“I wanted to give our community an opportunity to voice their opinions about what’s been happening in the area,” said Murphy.

A range of voices were represented at Thursday night’s forum, from retirees to current Anderson University students. Murphy was pleased with the turnout.

middle-east-seminar“It speaks to our intellectual seriousness of our community when we have a showing like this the day before spring break,” said Murphy.

The panel consisted of Donna Albrecht, a former teacher in Egypt; her husband, Eric Fricke; Dr. Carl Caldwell, a retired AU professor; Jordan Clark, an AU senior studying political science; Dr. Daniel Allen, AU professor of political science; and Hussain Alhashem, an AU student from Saudi Arabia.

[Photo: From left, Hussain Alhasem, Eric Fricke, and Donna Albrecht speak to Anderson University students and members of the community at a seminar and discussion on the events happening in the Middle East.]

Allen began the discussion by offering his synopsis of the region.

“It’s been enthralling, but this is just the ending of chapter one. It’s very hard to build a democracy,” said Allen.

Clark, who spent a semester in Cairo last year, said there were two common responses to Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt; one was apathetic, the second was the lively engagement that has been broadcast around the world. He also stated that those who were active in the protests showed a “remarkable” sense of unity, as Muslims and Christians shared in their frustration with the government.

“It was a microcosm of their vision of the Egypt of the future, where class and religion are no longer barriers,” said Clark.

Social media have played a major role in how people from around the world follow the uprisings. Albrecht said that before 2011, she was never that involved with Facebook, but once her friends in Egypt started posting comments and videos she says she became an “addict.” She said one of her former students posted a video while he was being teargassed. He has not posted since, which leaves Albrecht to worry about his status.

One of the first questions from the audience was “what is the U.S.’s role?”

Caldwell answered by stating President Barack Obama is in a “difficult” position, because what is happening in the Middle East espouses many of the values Americans hold, and it seems like we ought to support the activists. However, if Obama does interfere, he will be seen throughout the global community as “meddling.”

“There’s a prevailing opinion in the region that the U.S. is too involved, but I think that will change,” said Caldwell.

Fricke said there is a feeling of self-reliance in places like Egypt and Libya, where protesters are saying to the international community “We started this, we’ll finish it.”

Following the 90-minute discussion, Murphy said he was pleased with the dialogue between panelists and the audience.

“It started off a little slow, but once we started introducing some controversial topics I think it really got going,” said Murphy.

— Sam Brattain is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.