Part 2: Q&A with a student of conflict resolution

  (1)  When did you first become interested in the field of conflict resolution, generally, and religious peacemaking, specifically? 

Since my earliest days, I’ve been concerned by issues of justice. In college, my desire to be an attorney was soured by my experiences with campus advocacy. While I did – and still – find a lot in common with some protest movements, I realized that I prefer to work in a less adversarial environment. I didn’t know then the term ‘conflict resolution,’ but I was headed in that direction. Choosing to give myself more time to think about law school, I signed up with an AmeriCorps project involved in ‘violence prevention,’ and that opened the door to the field for me.  

During the same time that I was an AmeriCorps volunteer, I participated in an adult education program called JustFaith. It’s a primarily Catholic, but ecumenical, program that combines the study of Catholic social teaching and concrete acts of social ministry. This deepened associations already ingrained in me: the connections between religion, justice and peace. 

Even so, I partially chose to study conflict resolution at the University of Bradford (UK) because it was a secular environment. I did not originally intend to focus on religious peacebuilding. Rather, this desire developed during my masters degree experience as I realized, first, that this approach most appealed to me and, second, that it is a marginalized approach that requires further study.   

(2)  What processes and theories guided your research and studies at the University of Bradford? 

Bradford’s Peace Studies Department is really good at providing students with the layout and history of the field of conflict resolution / management / transformation. I was most influenced by the concepts of conflict transformation, especially theories that defined peacebuilding as process-oriented, bottom-up, organic, eliciting, nonlinear, etc. I also worked substantially with critical theory.  

a.      What processes and theories guide your work at Tanenbaum?  How have your views developed since the completion of your M.A. degree? 

The theories above inform my work at Tanenbaum and allow me to relate to the work of many of the Peacemakers. However, Tanenbaum’s Religion and Conflict Resolution Program also operates within academic, diplomatic and policy realms in which the peacebuilding paradigm is not the norm. I am learning to transition back and forth between paradigms, hopefully carrying valuable lessons from each. This sort of crossover is part of the growth of track II diplomacy.   

(3)  What mentors and/or prominent scholars/practitioners inspired your interest in conflict resolution and religious peacemaking?  What experiences and/or ideas of theirs most inspired you and why? 

· John Paul Lederach – the pyramid, “web-watching,” credibility of bottom-up approach

· Scott ApplebyThe Ambivalence of the Sacred is a pivotal text

· Marc Gopin – connection with the severity and depth of what’s at stake for religious groups

· Paulo Friere – learner-centered, participation, participation, participation

· Alasdair MacIntyre – religion as a ‘living tradition,’ the junction of the particular and the universal, tradition dependent rationality

· Andrea Bartoli – chronicling the work of the Community of Sant’ Egidio, especially in Mozambique

· Neil Cooper – my thesis advisor who helped bring in the critical theory with a focus on the psychosocial power of religions  

(4)  What previous life experiences have most helped prepare you for your current position?          

Working with faith-based relief agencies in my own Catholic community including during my violence prevention work with AmeriCorps; Working for a former Congressman 

a.      How have they shaped your understanding of religion and conflict resolution? 

I understand that this field is both community-based (about everyday living and ritual, social identity) and political (about power, elites and constituents).

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