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University of Birmingham launches Jainism teaching and research programme

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The University of Birmingham is launching a world-leading teaching and research programme in Jainism, made possible by generous supporters from the Jain community.

Jainism is an ancient religion originating from India, emphasising non-violence, self-control, compassion and non-possessiveness.  The Jain principle of non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ profoundly influenced India’s vegetarianism, movements of passive resistance and, more recently, environmental engagement.

Named after an apostle of unconditional nonviolence, the Bhagavan Dharmanath Jain Studies programme will develop teaching and research in relation to contemporary issues, such as environmental protection, human rights and interfaith dialogue.

A group of philanthropists, including Dr Jasvant Modi representing US donors and Nemu Chandaria OBE representing UK donors, made a gift of $1.5 million to establish the programme at the University of Birmingham.

The University is located in a religiously and culturally diverse city, and the local Jain community has been part of the Birmingham Council of Faiths since its beginnings in the 1970s.

Launching in September 2023, the new programme features the creation of an Assistant Professorship in Jain Studies, an Assistant Professorship in the Ethics of Non-Violence, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Jain Studies. Students can apply to the new programme from January to March 2023.

Donor Dr Jasvant Modi said:

“I am delighted that the University of Birmingham is launching a Jain Studies programme named after the Jain apostle Bhagavan Dharmanath, whose teaching represents what I consider to be three pillars of a modern democratic society.

“The Jain doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) teaches us to avoid harming of any life form; the doctrine of aparigraha (non-possessiveness) teaches us to keep only what we need for ourselves and give the rest to others; and the doctrine of anekantvad (many-sidedness) teaches us to respect everyone’s opinion.

“I am excited that our donation will enable academics and students at the University of Birmingham to explore subjects which are relevant to these concepts in the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion.”

The academic team will jointly cover a wide range of topics, including Jain philosophy of religion, peace and conflict resolution, forgiveness, environmental ethics, ecology, human wellbeing, women’s rights, animal rights and business ethics.

Professor Charlotte Hempel, Head of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham, commented:

“The generosity of our donors means that we have the opportunity to establish a world-leading centre of excellence in Jainism at the heart of one of the world’s most culturally and religiously diverse cities.

“I look forward to welcoming students and researchers to this tremendously exciting project, which we believe will enhance understanding of Jainism around the world  over the coming years.”

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