Category: RCT News

Spring Courses 2014 for RCT Certificate

November 11th, 2013

Spring Classes for Religion and Conflict Transformation Program Certificate


STH TS 800 “International Conflict and the Ministry of Reconciliation” Instructor Rodney Peterson 4 credit

STH TS806 “Introduction to Mediation Theory and Practice” Instructor Carol Bohn. 4 credits. Classes will meet at The School of Theology. Mediations will take place on the Cape.

STH TS877  “Principles and Practices of Restorative Justice” Instructor Tom Porter. 4 credits.

STH TC896 “Toward a Theology of the Streets” Instructor Jed Mannis. 2 credit. This class will meet Tuesdays from 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Please contact RCT if you have questions or seek more information about any of these courses.

Religious Leaders Can Positively Influence Their Communities

November 19th, 2011

RCT Program Administrator Trelawney Grenfell-Muir recently wrote on an article for the website of the Journal for Inter-Religious Dialogue entitled, “Like the Teeth of the Comb: Leaders in Inter-Religious Tolerance in Lebanon and Syria.”

Click here for the text of the article, which profiles seven religious leaders in the conflicts in Lebanon and Syria, and how they are trying to positively influence their communities to bring about peace.

One of these leaders quotes the Hadith to his students in order to promote theological openness.  For example, “‘people are equal (sawâsiyah) like the teeth of the comb: Arabs are not superior to non-Arabs.’ …They belong [like fingers] to a hand. So we are together, but no one is the same as the other.”

Grenfell-Muir concludes: “While it is difficult to quantify the exact effect specific doctrines have in the hands of talented leaders, the situation would surely be worse without the admirable efforts of all who teach and model embracing the ‘other.’ We can only hope that others will learn from their example and continue to build a lasting peace. “

First Annual Peter Berger Lecture and Celebration

October 27th, 2011

Peter Berger Lecture and Celebration

Friday, November 11, 2011

The First Annual Peter Berger Lecture in Religion and World Affairs

Sponsored by the School of Theology and The Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA), Boston University


David Martin, Professor Emeritus in the Sociology of Religion, London School of Economics

David Martin served as president of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion and is an ordained priest in the Church of England. Martin has written extensively on the sociology of religion and secularization, most notably in A General Theory of Secularization (1978), and on the intersection of sociology and theology, with his essays on this topic collected in Reflections on Sociology and Theology (1996). He has examined the expansion of Pentecostal Protestantism in the developing world in his widely cited Tongues of Fire: Conservative Protestantism in Latin America (1990) and Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish (2002), and he has written on religion and violence in Does Christianity Cause War? (1998) and most recently in The Future of Christianity: Reflections on Violence and Democracy, Religion and Secularization (2011).


On June 30, 2009, Dr. Peter L. Berger retired from the directorship of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, which he had founded in 1985. Peter remains an employee of Boston University on the staff of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs, and also regularly participates in the broader life of the Boston University community, not least the School of Theology.

With the joint sponsorship of the School of Theology and CURA, we are proposing to hold the “First Annual Peter Berger Lecture in Religion and World Affairs” on November 11, 2011. The purpose of the event is not to praise Peter as he prepares for retirement – Peter is a still very active citizen in CURA and the University, and we are not in the least interested in rushing him into retirement. The November 11 event will instead serve as the first of a proposed annual lectureship entitled, “The Peter Berger Lecture in Religion and World Affairs.” Dr. David Martin – professor emeritus of sociology the London School of Economics, a widely published theologian, and a long time colleague at CURA and a friend of Peter’s since the 1970s – has kindly agreed to present the first lecture.

The purpose of the named lectureship will be to sponsor a state-of-the-field lecture by a distinguished scholar in some aspect of the fields in which Peter Berger has left a lasting legacy: theology, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. We feel that it is appropriate that the topics of the lecture remain open. Religious studies in its true interdisciplinary sense is an evolving and wonderfully dynamic enterprise. Nonetheless, we also feel that the topics of the lectures should in some way reflect scholarship in the tradition of “Berger at Boston University.” The lectures might touch, then, on topics as varied as modern secularity and global religious revival; the social constructions of religion in modern times; global Christianity; Christian theology in an age of relativist challenge; the multiplicity of religious modernities; religion and globalization. Again, we emphasize that this list is intended to be illustrative not restrictive. The lecturer and topic for each year’s lecture will be chosen by the CURA director, the Chair of the Department of Sociology, and two faculty appointed by the Dean of the School of Theology. The selection committee will also consult with the Chairs of the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Religion before extending an invitation to each year’s lecturer.

The first annual Peter Berger Lecture will be of special importance because Berger himself will be in attendance. Equally important, in addition to launching the lectureship, we will use the event to celebrate Peter Berger’s contribution to the study of religion and world affairs at Boston University.

Schedule of Events (subject to change)

4:00 pm: Welcome

Brief welcoming comments by Dana Robert and Bob Hefner, explaining the dual purpose of the evening’s event: a celebration of Peter Berger’s contribution to Boston University, and the launching of the first annual Peter Berger Lecture.

4:10 to 4:20: Boston University Administrators’ Welcome

With tributes by:

* Vice President Andrei Ruckenstein, Vice President of Research

* Dean Elizabeth Moore, School of Theology

* Dean Virginia Sapiro, College of Arts and Sciences

4:20-5:45: Lecture: Dr. David Martin, London School of Economics

5:45-6:30: Reception

Location: To be Declared.  For up-to-date information, visit the CURA Lecture website.

The Real Cost of Prisons

October 26th, 2011

BU School of Theology and Partakes’ College Behind Bars are sponsoring a talk by Pippin Ross, entitled “Crash Course: A Reporter’s Journey Into Prison.”

Date and Time: Thursday, November 3 at 7:00 PM

Location: Boston University School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, 3rd Floor Room 325

An article about presenter, Pippin Ross.

Pippin Ross, former reporter at WFCR talks about her years at Framingham Prison

Former reporter released from MCI-Framingham
By Dan McDonald/Daily News staff
Posted Sep 06, 2009

Doing time in MCI-Framingham may have landed Pippin Ross, who once ran a public radio station in western Massachusetts before she was jailed for multiple drunken driving charges, the biggest scoop of her career: revealing what she refers to as the “beast of the correction system.”

In July 2006, after facing at least four drunken driving counts, Ross was sentenced to serve 2 to 4 years in the state women’s prison in Framingham.

During her stint inside, Ross, then Inmate # 80554, did what came naturally: She culled stories, taking copious notes, documenting everything from the green Jell-O and mystery soup at chow time to the Zen of mopping and sweeping in the morning.

She observed.

Ross took note of the large number of inmates given psychotropic drug prescriptions , whether they needed them or not.

“Women get put on the drugs right away,” she said. “It’s what I call chemical restraint.”

At least 60 percent of MCI-Framingham’s inmates have open mental health cases, according to the Department of Correction. Ross suggests the number is actually much higher.

In a typed response to Ross’ statements, DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin said licensed psychiatrists, psychologists and clinicians are solely responsible for making clinical decisions.

Ross, the inmate, dug for news.

The DOC’s drug vendor is based out of state, says Ross. That is something Ross’ husband, Phil Austin, says many people in the state don’t know, and it’s something that “should make the average taxpayer livid.”

Wiffin says its medical vendor uses the State Office of Pharmacy Services for all medication, as is statewide policy for all agencies.

While behind bars, Ross ruffled feathers, filing a complaint about access to the law library and holding an interview with The Boston Globe. That move, she says, partially contributed to prison officials unfairly scrutinizing her.

She says her cell was often searched and some notes confiscated.

The Department of Correction declined to comment on those assertions, saying it would need a CORI waiver to get into specifics about Ross’ assertions of retaliatory solitary confinement and room searches.

Ross says legal services for the inmates are hard to come by in MCI-Framingham.

In the correction system, Ross notes there is “an ongoing philosophical civil war between those who are compassionate and those who say ‘Let them break rocks.”‘

Wiffin, in response to that statement, says the DOC is committed to re-entry into society as sound public policy which promotes public safety.

When Ross emerged from the Loring Drive prison in March with a deflated ego, the 53-year-old whose resume includes writing for the Boston Herald and Boston Globe, she knew she had a story to tell.

Ross now lives in a sober house in Malden and is writing a book with Austin, 56, of Nantucket, about her experience in prison and in the judicial system.

It’s an experience she labels “exhausting, demoralizing, and scary.”

Having just finished a cup of chai tea in a Somerville cafe Friday, Ross speaks matter-of-factly about her time inside. She does not break eye contact. She does not get emotional.

She calls prison the “epicenter of post-traumatic stress syndrome” and says nearly every woman she encountered in prison had been sexually abused at some point in their lives.

“Many, many women in prison are there because of a horrible experience that drove them to the edge. All of a sudden … the controls get lifted,” she said.

Prison is almost always the result of a twisted assortment of factors, says Ross, who originally hails from Fitchburg.

“Terrible public education, no affordable housing, and no access to help,” she said.

But Ross appears to buck such a criteria.

Educated at Dana Hall School in Wellesley before attending UMass-Amherst to study broadcast journalism, Ross was the news director for the National Public Radio affiliate in Amherst WFCR from 1986 to 1996.

She continued to be linked to NPR in some form until 2004.

Her decade-plus course in hard knocks began years earlier.

While alcoholism “was always there lurking,” things really fell apart, she says, when she was sexually-assaulted while she was working on an investigative story in the late 1990s.

Ross racked up four charges of driving under the influence of alcohol in a 2-year span, ending in the earlier half of the decade.

In 2004 she was sent to McLean Hospital in Belmont to get sober. Her stint was short-lived. Five days into her stay she shared a vodka nip with a fellow patient and was asked to leave. That development was probably a moot point. She says she couldn’t afford the $450 per day cost her insurance did not cover. Not paying for the stay meant a probation violation and she was sent back to court.

In February 2005, she was sentenced to a year in jail and ultimately landed in the Western Massachusetts Correctional Center on Howard Street in Springfield.

“It was my ashram. My on-the-taxpayer’s Betty Ford clinic ,” said Ross.

Three days before she was scheduled to be released, however, she was indicted for altering a court document by changing the number of drunken driving charges she had on a court document.

Ross says the count would not have affected her jail sentence and that it was a paperwork snafu; she said she had simply tried to make a minor correction to court documents.

The court thought she was trying to fudge documents to get out early.

Her attorney had a blunt assessment of the situation: “You’re smoked,” he told her.

She fought the charge of “before the fact aiding an attempted escape,” for nine months before succumbing to her attorney’s pressure, pleading out in July 2006. She was sent east, to Framingham where she was imprisoned until March.

She married Austin, a novelist with four published books under his belt, last April, two weeks after she was released from prison. The two, who first met as part of a theater production 27 years ago, corresponded while she was in jail starting in January 2007.

Ross, who has a 20-year-old son, is on both parole and probation. She is scheduled to get out of the sober house in December, but might be released sooner.

She has one article due to come out in the September issue of Shambhala Sun Magazine, an upscale meditation magazine, about teaching yoga in prison. She said she also is working on other freelance assignments.

The book project is nearly done and the couple is shopping the manuscript, which has a tentative title of “Crash Test Dummies.”

Reflecting on her prison stint, Ross tries to pull something positive out of her story.

She said, “It showed me how astronomically precious life is.”

Youth-led discussion on Interfaith Dialogue

October 18th, 2011

If you are interested in Interfaith Dialogue, join the teens from Youth-LEAD on Sunday, October 30 at 1 pm at the Mary Baker Eddy Library.

Youth LEAD is a teen-focused organization, with teens designing and facilitating the programs.  It was started in Sharon, MA, which is a town with size-able Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim populations.

For more information, read the Youth LEAD flyer.

Appleby Talk

October 18th, 2011

For more information on today’s talk, view the Appleby Flier PDF.

Summer Peacebuilding Institute

October 18th, 2011

A program of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the Summer Peacebuilding Institute brings instructors, participants, and staff together in a community of learning and healing.  Together, participants explore issues of both local and global concern through classroom interaction, luncheon presentations, weekend seminars, special interest groups, and community celebrations.  Informal sharing of personal stories creates trust, bonds of hope, and courage to move forward.

Information on SPI 2012 can now be found on the internet at  Course offerings and schedule, instructor bios, estimated costs, and the online application form can be obtained from this site.

Applications can only be submitted electronically via the online form.  The online form will allow you to begin completing the application, save your work, and return later to finish and submit.  Applications for SPI 2012 are due by January 13, 2012 with admissions decisions being made by Feb 3, 2012.  If you need additional processing time for a visa or other reason, you can request expedited processing and an early decision.

Please email EMU’s office ( if you are having difficulties applying, or have other questions.

Institute for Healing of Memories Lecture by Ela Ghandi

October 6th, 2011

The Institute for Healing of Memories in South Africa held its First Annual Lecture at the University of the Western Cape on the 18th August 2011.  It was given by Ela Ghandi, who is granddaughter of Mohandas Gandhi, is a peace activist, and was a Member of Parliament in South Africa from 1994-2004.

To read a transcript of the lecture, click here.

Lecture at Institute for Healing of Memories

Ela Ghandi, Lecturer at Institute for Healing of Memories

The Institute for Healing of Memories was founded in 1998.  It grew out of the Chaplaincy Project of the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture, where Father Michael Lapsley was one of the founder members.

The Institute seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. Its work is grounded in the belief that we are all in need of healing, because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done to us.

Through his own experience of living in exile, losing both hands and an eye in a letter bomb attack in 1990, and listening to the stories of the survivors whom he counselled at the Trauma Centre, Fr Michael realised the importance of giving people a space in which their experiences could be shared and acknowledged.

November Symposium on Restorative Justice, Rconciliation, and Peacebuilding

October 6th, 2011

There is will on Symposium on November 11-12 at NYU School of Law, entitled “Restorative Justice, Reconciliation, and Peacebuilding.”

Featured speakers include:

John Braithwaite, Australian National University

Phil Clark, School of Oriental and African Studies

Stephen Hopgood, School of Oriental and African Studies

Louise Mallinder, Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster

David Tolbert, International Center for Transitional Justice

Charles Villa-Vicencio, Georgetown University

Conference is free but requires advance registration. Because space is limited, early registration is recommended. To register, contact Kelly Roberts at

The symposium is a project of the Program on Religion and Reconciliation at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame in collaboration with the Restorative Peacebuilding Project of the Working Party on Restorative Justice of the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in New York.

To see the flier for more information, click here.