UC Irvine’s Crystal Cove was filled wall-to-wall with students eagerly waiting to hear Rainn Wilson, known for his role as Dwight Schrute on “The Office”, speak about his involvement with Education Under Fire on April 9.
Education Under Fire is a national campaign initiated to raise awareness and a universal call for action against the Iranian government’s denial of the basic, fundamental right to education to believers of the Baha’i faith.
Education Under Fire has been targeting university campuses, including Harvard and UCLA, in the hopes to educate American students on the underground university in Iran, The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.
The organization is working to get more American universities to support BIHE faculty and students, and accept transferable credits from students from BIHE.
ASUCI Speakers and Debate Commissioner Omeid Heidari is proud of his teams’ hard work in making the event a success.
“Education Under Fire contacted me in the middle of winter quarter, through one of my interns in ASUCI about the possibility of bringing Rainn Wilson for their screening event,” Heidari said.
“EUF and ASUCI developed a great partnership, each able to complement the other in terms of planning.”
After a heart-wrenching 30-minute documentary, Wilson spoke to the audience, followed by a panel consisting of Wilson, actress and UCI alum Nazanin Boniadi, BIHE graduate and UC San Diego Medical School student Omid Yousefian, and International Programs, UCI Extension and BIHE ESL curriculum development committee member Professor Safineh Tahmessabi. The panel offered a question and answer session with attendees.
“The Office” fans were excited that Wilson cracked a few jokes, including poking fun at UCI’s mascot, before talking about his involvement with Education Under Fire.
“I just found out that your mascot is the Anteater and I feel really bad for you,” Wilson teased.
Wilson grew up a member of the Baha’i faith, which has caused him to speak for a call of action against the torture taking place in Iran.
“I hadn’t heard until last year of the BIHE,” Wilson said. “It was interesting to me because I had never thought about withholding education as a fundamental human right. Education, the right to want to learn, is a fundamental human right.”
Wilson’s strong support for Education Under Fire is not only rooted in his faith, but in his role as a father.
“If the same thing were happening in the United States and here is my son, a young Baha’i kid growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and he wanted to go to college, and to picture what it would be like to hear our government say, ‘No you can’t go, you have to renounce your faith and part of who you are and what you believe in, in order to go learn,’” Wilson said.
San Juan Capistrano Pastor Dave Woods took an active participation in the event as well. Woods is a pastor at San Juans’ Zoe Church.
“I teach the Thursday night Bible Study at the church each week,” Woods said.
“I got involved with this event because a good friend of mine, Sheiba Kaufman, organized the entire event. Sheiba is Baha’i and I am a Christian, and we are both graduate students at UCI working on our Ph.D.s in English.”
Woods believes the event was a huge success and was proud to see the UCI community interested in making a difference.
Woods stated. “I don’t think it could have gone any better.”
UCI freshman Sarah Kevorkian found the event to be informative and moving.
“I’m thrilled to attend a university which is willing to provide us with the opportunity to defend the institution of education,” Kevorkian said.
To get involved with the organization head to http://educationunderfire.com/.