About The Program
“Many of us hunger for a community to support the integration of self-care, inner work, collective care, real commitment to challenging injustice, and powerful action, but just haven’t found our people yet. We need a place to share our stories and struggles, to build trust and gain insight together, to strengthen the capacity for resilience in ourselves and in our collective movements for change.”
The Tom Porter Program on Religion and Conflict Transformation prepares religious and community leaders to be a resource for peace in a multi-cultural, multi-faith world.
Who We Are
The Religion and Conflict Transformation (RCT) program is a seminary-based program in theologically-informed conflict transformation. It trains religious leaders in the theology, theory, and practice of faith-based conflict transformation in the church and in the world.
The program is offered to students enrolled in degree programs, as well as to non-degree students, such as ministers and other professionals in the field seeking to advance their education and receive training and certification in the area of religion and conflict transformation.
Focus on multicultural and interfaith contexts: In all its programs, RCT attempts to include multicultural representation and sensitivity to diverse accessibility issues. Course curricula must include multicultural voices and content from diverse faith communities. Although the program is rooted in the Christian tradition, courses and programs seek to incorporate spiritual practices from diverse faiths.
Emphasize self-reflection/spiritual practices: RCT has an inherent value that effective peacemaking requires: critical self-reflection to understand one’s relationship to conflict, conflict style(s), and areas for growth. Spiritual practices and other forms of self-care are taught and modeled in courses to prepare and sustain leaders for work in conflict settings. The role of ritual is explored to create sacred space for facilitating conflict.
Create expansive, hospitable spaces: The program seeks to respond to the needs of international students, students of minority faiths and ethnicities, queer and transgender students, and those students who perceive themselves to be marginalized by dominant institutional culture. By utilizing circle processes, RCT attempts to give voice to all.
Organizational Conflict in Faith Communities
The most pressing challenge related to preparing and supporting faith leaders and congregational lay ministers for ministry is a limited capacity to address and mediate conflict. Multiple issues exasperating divisions in our country are also troubling our congregations. Ideological rigidity and decreasing interest in working together across differences are displayed in Congress, town halls, school boards, and church councils and committees. Most clergy and lay leaders are ill-equipped to assess, facilitate and – when necessary – mediate such conflicts in their own congregations.
When called upon to host difficult conversations across differences within their churches or in their larger communities, many pastors lack the skills to design and facilitate such dialogues. Some congregations have developed a conflict-avoidance culture that does not welcome open communication. Pastors lack the confidence to name and address organizational or culturally driven conflicts. When two conflicting, emotionally charged interests try to share the same space in congregational life, church leaders often do not have the skills to mediate creative options. In the Gospels, we are called over and over again to be peacemakers, but there are few opportunities for seminarians to learn and practice the skills of peacemaking. There is a great need and opportunity for theological education to model and teach the gospel of peacemaking, including the skills necessary (dialogue and mediation) to transform conflict in congregational settings.
Addressing Needs: Intra-faith Conflicts
The goal of RCT is to better understand efforts to overcome intra-faith division in order to re-imagine how we prepare faith leaders for the complexities of conflict within their own religious traditions. Scholars and activists have paid much attention in recent decades to developing interfaith dialogue and cooperation across diverse religions.
More recently, the world has become more polarized along ideological lines. Conservatives and liberals within the same religious traditions often find themselves on opposite sides of important issues. The deep divisions within faith communities contribute to a larger, collective social and cultural divide.
As theological ideas are used to promote specific, and often limited, worldviews and bolster rigid ideological frameworks, less opportunity exists for fostering mutual understanding, mediating possible collaborative initiatives, and building broad support for policy initiatives. Leaders at both ends of political divides often claim religious authority, making compromise difficult to achieve. This growing polarization feeds tensions within communities and families and even between states and within nations.
Academic Courses in Conflict Transformation, Restorative Justice, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation, Peace and Violence, Trauma and the Theology of Healing, The Spiritual Formation of Peacebuilders, Interfaith Peace Leaders, Non-Violence and Ethical Leadership, Mediation, and many more. Review the approved 2022-2023 BTI/RCT Course List.
Skill Development & Spiritual Formation including listening for understanding, speaking the truth in love, using imagination, practicing forgiveness, appreciative inquiry, interest-based mediation, restorative justice, nonviolent resistance, interfaith just-peacemaking, cross-cultural fluency, leading dialogue, and circle processes. Learn more by reviewing our Fall Retreat and Spring Capstone.
Research Projects that ask important questions about religion and conflict transformation are designed by faculty with opportunities for student participation. Visiting researchers are invited annually to share their independent research and deepen our knowledge of theory and practice from diverse religious and cultural perspectives. Collaborations in research across disciplines are explored with faculty both within and beyond the School of Theology (both at BU and internationally). Learn more about RCT Research.
Travel Seminars that integrate academic and experiential learning in context. Examples include the former Yugoslavia: Post-Conflict Interfaith Reconciliation; Indonesia: Trauma, Theology & Interreligious Healing; Israel/ Palestine: Dual Narratives and Peacemaking; Southwest USA/Mexican Border: Immigration Conflicts in Communities and Public Policy; and others. Learn more about the Travel Seminars.
An Internship program that provides opportunities for learning and service in the field of conflict transformation. Examples: Community Mediation and Dispute Centers, Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs, Shelters for Domestic Abuse, Community Dialogue Initiatives, Interfaith Social Justice Organizations, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Programs, Peace Action Groups, Criminal Justice Reform, Faith-Based Peace Organizations, and more. Both credit and stipends are provided and can be combined with Contextual Education. Learn more about our Internship / Contextual Education opportunities.
Special Events & Forums that bring together leading scholars, activists, and researchers in Religion and Conflict Transformation. Recent examples include events exploring Interfaith Peacemaking and the Arts, Moral Courage and Gun Policy, the Church’s Response to Climate Change, and the Power of Nonviolence. Learn more about our Special Programming and Events.
Who May Participate
There are several ways you can participate in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program:
- Supplement your existing program (for all degree candidates in the BTI schools).
- Register for continuing education programs in the BTI schools. Registrants may be, for example, social workers and lawyers, teachers and missionaries, pastors or priests, military and prison chaplains, or others.
- Students enrolled in the Boston University School of Theology’s Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program may pursue a specialization in Religion and Conflict Transformation. Prospective students will first apply through the BU STH Admissions office and indicate in the application an interest in religion and conflict transformation. Those pursuing the MTS degree can receive a specialization in Religion and Conflict Transformation by taking the core course, Spirit and Art of Conflict Transformation, and three other courses in the field of religion and conflict transformation. This specialization will be noted on your transcript. Read more about how this works by clicking here.
How To Participate
- To indicate your interest in the RCT Program, please complete this RCT Registration Form. When you register for the program, you will be placed on our email list and invited to programming and events. The registration form also provides you with an opportunity to indicate your interest in the BTI/RCT Certificate.
- Seek the BTI Certificate in Religion and Conflict Transformation.
Summary of BTI/RCT Certificate and MTS Specialization Requirements:
- Four (4) courses minimum: 12 credits;
- The Religion and Conflict Transformation Core Course. (3 credits)
- Three additional course electives (9 credits), one of which may be an internship or travel seminar
- Attendance at annual Fall Retreats
- Presentation of integrative paper at the annual Spring Capstone Colloquium during your final year of study.
For more information and a description of the requirements for the BTI Certificate, click here.
To read more about this program’s history, click here.