Peace and Conflict Studies Endowed Chair: A Road to Friendship Building on the Oberlin Campus

 

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With this money I would turn to the Oberlin community and invest it into expanding and deepening the Peace and Conflict Studies Concentration. Having a more developed and prominent PACS concentration that focus on elements of religious, cultural, racial, political, ideological, and gender based conflicts resolution can allow Oberlin students to be better prepared to debate, converse, and be agents of change when they campus.

I would start an endowed chair and if there was more money needed I would fundraise the rest.  This would mean the emergence of a greater variety of classes in different divisions. This new department would add focus to the need to develop personal relationships as a foundation to peace. This friendship element can help refocus our attention on our own communities, families, and ourselves. At Oberlin we already have Friendship Day- a way in which to institutionalize and shift the paradigm to think about how we can better build relationships rather than cold peace and conflict. The new chair could develop a campus wide Friendship Week leading up to the celebration, in which different groups on campus would present their thoughts on friendship building and peace in our community and beyond. The Muslim Students Association, Christian groups, and Jews Student groups could work together to create a space of interfaith dialogue and hold a conference. Here people could speak about their religion and their connection to peace as well as answer questions from the audience about religion’s role in the 21st century.

 

Lastly, another element to this program is setting up international exchanges and trips. The new chair could support a group of Oberlin students, perhaps in a specific class where they are learning about friendship building at home and abroad, to go on a week long trip to a region across the world. This could be anywhere from Syria, to Israel/Palestine, China, the US-Mexico Border or Colombia. It could vary year to year, but the goal of these trips is to become exposed to different cultures and ways of communicating. One of the major blocks to peacebuilding is miscommunication based on not understanding cultural context, language, and history. This new chair would make sure that in their class was given in depth knowledge about the region. As the program grew older the trip could become longer- into a winter term or even a summer long exchange. During the exchange Oberlin students would be paired with a person their age from a university and that would be their point of contact and, hopefully, a way to build friendship between our campus and a campus abroad. It would also be beneficial if those same students could come to Oberlin for a trip to complete the circle of exchange.


To understand further the importance of peacebuilding and forgiveness as a process I turn toDavid Augsburger opening chapter where he highlights that when working toward such ideals as reconciliation, forgiving, and transforming relationships one must develop a common set of terms or language in which participants can join the conversation. In this way, those conversations can be given the cultural context they deserve (Augsburger, 1).  Basing his analysis in Christian beliefs, Augsburger focuses on the need for interfaith dialogue and returning to the “radical- or root- meaning of central concepts and recover the soul of reconciliation” rather than reverting to soft meaning of words such as forgiveness. He further emphasizes “forgiveness as Practice” or a “craft” not simply an action. It must be practiced over time. In this light, creating institutions that promote the lifelong practice of forgiveness are pivotal in shifting the world conversation from cold peace to warm peace. Furthermore, Augsburger’s analysis adds meaning to the creation of a endowed chair of PACS as it seeks to develop a practice and allow people to learn the cultural contexts that are essential to friendship and peacebuilding.

 

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