History of the Program
The Religion and Conflict Transformation (RCT) program have a rich and long history growing out of a collaboration between the Boston Theological Institute (BTI) and the JustPeace Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation in the United Methodist Church. In 2003 the Certificate program in Religion and Conflict Transformation was formally established by the BTI. Dean Ray Hart agreed to provide an anchor for the certificate program at Boston University School of Theology, hiring Tom Porter in September 2004 to direct this work. In the Fall of 2004 Tom along with Rodney Petersen, the executive director of the BTI, taught a course entitled Engaging Conflict Well, which has been taught every year since in the fall and now is called The Spirit and Art of Conflict Transformation, Creating a Culture of JustPeace, as well as course in the Spring of 2005 entitled Religion and the Ministry of Reconciliation.
A design team of faculty, staff and students spent a year designing the Program, which was unanimously approved by the faculty in 2005. A Faculty Leadership Team was created in 2005 with its members teaching courses that qualified for the Certificate. The RCT Program was officially launched in 2006. The program began with 15 students in 2006 and 29 students in 2007. It has continued to grow.
In 2007, the Program held its first annual retreat, which has been held every year since. This is an all-day intensive led by an eminent scholar/practitioner in one of the program’s focal areas related to conflict transformation. The annual retreat has been a rich opportunity for students as well as faculty and staff to gain new wisdom, new perspectives and new possibilities within the field, as well as an opportunity to get to know those students who are entering the program. This is now referred to as the Fall Retreat.
An Integrative Seminar for graduating students was created in the spring of 2007. Over time this became the Spring Capstone Circle, an opportunity for the RCT community to hear each graduating participant in the program share learnings from their study in the RCT Program as well as how these learnings will guide them in their work in the future. These have been remarkable events, inspiring and educational. In preparation for their presentation, each graduate writes an integrative paper that speaks to their particular journey in conflict transformation.
With a generous grant from the Luce Foundation in 2008, the program was able to expand its work on many fronts, including with practicums, scholarships, a lecture series and the employment of a student Program Administrator.
In the Spring of 2010, the first course in Restorative Justice was taught with students from the law school, school of social work and the school of theology. This has led to many new courses and clinical experiences connecting our students with contextual experiences and partnerships such as nonviolent direct action, mediation, interfaith dialogue and JustPeacemaking, congregational change and conflict, and transitional justice. In 2010 we held a Consultation of Theological Educators in Conflict Transformation and in 2012 a Consultation on the Formation of Interfaith Just Peacemakers.
From 2010 to the present the RCT program has supported contextual education through travel courses to places such as Columbia, Jamaica, Israel/Palestine, South India, and Indonesia.
In 2012 a second generous grant was received from the Luce Foundation to develop our Clinic program of practicums, workshops, and partnerships. This grant also enabled us to hire in February of 2014 a co-director of the Clinic, Salma Kazmi. Salma is now creating an Islamic Seminary in Boston. In 2016 Dr. Judith Oleson joined the RCT program as a co-director, bringing a wealth of experience teaching conflict studies, nonprofit leadership, social work and transitional justice, working in Croatia and Canada. Among many responsibilities, she leads our work with Hebrew College, our other partnerships, and our research. While the RCT program has a strong record, it is also forward looking and seeks to continue its collaborative and JustPeace-building work under the leadership of Dr. Judith Oleson and Rev. Tom Porter as co-directors.
For more details in the history see the attached PDF: