Amid Iraq's parliamentary elections and vote tallying this week, professors from Baylor University returned to the United States after establishing and dedicating a center for democracy and diplomacy in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq as part of an effort to rebuild the Iraqi higher education system.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Baylor has been involved in the reconstruction of Iraq, contributive of the country's move towards peace and democracy. Stressing education and information as the basis for respect, understanding and tolerance, the Baylor delegation made its third journey to Iraq in an endeavor to educate Iraqi students.
"The world has traditionally regarded a country's global stature by measures of power, such as its military, its territory, its institutions, its natural resources and its population," said Dr. William A. Mitchell, one of the four professors who dedicated the center in Dohuk University, according to a statement released Thursday. "Today we wish to expand that outdated definition of national power to include the most essential component of all, a country's democracy with peace and prosperity for all people. Your country is immensely rich in its people and your spirit is strong, in its culture and in its traditions and heritage - as well as its natural resources - but deserves democracy throughout Iraq."
After an exchange agreement was signed in 1996 making Dohuk one of the first Iraqi universities to do so with a U.S. institution Baylor and Dohuk began reconstructive activity following Hussein's fall.
"The higher education system was essentially destroyed by events preceding and following the war," said Mitchell in an earlier statement. "Saddam allowed it to become politicized and corrupt, then campuses were physically destroyed by vandalism after the war by the Iraqi criminal element."
In step with Baylor's ten-year vision - Baylor 2012 - the Baptist university has committed to higher education with plans to expand faculty and add new facilities and programs while remaining grounded in its strong Christian mission.
Mitchell endorsed the goals of Dohuk's new center which are to share knowledge to develop responsible citizens and educate leaders, dedicated scholars and skilled professionals who appreciate an enriching cultural diversity, according to Baylor's news release.
"There is truly a light in the darkness that can extinguish evil, and that light is kindled and kept alive through education, by giving students tools and knowledge to understand, and thereby tools and knowledge for peace and justice for all," added Mitchell.
The Baylor delegation that visited Dohuk on Dec. 6-11 included Mitchell, The Jo Murphy Chair of International Education, professor of political science and director of the Center for International Education; William Hair, associate dean and director of the University Libraries; Dr. Larry Lehr, senior lecturer in environmental studies; and Dr. Brad Owens, associate professor of journalism.