THERE ARE ALREADY A NUMBER OF PEACE STUDIES PROGRAMS, CENTRES, AND INSTITUTES IN THE WORLD.
So what makes the Jim Forest Institute for Religion, Peace and Justice unique?
OUR ACADEMIC PROGRAMS ADDRESS THE MOST PRESSING AND OFTEN ASKED QUESTIONS AROUND PEACE THOUGHT AND ACTION.
Laypeople, clergy, and professionals of all walks of life and backgrounds have challenging questions related to peace theology, biblical interpretation, nonviolent responses to real or perceived threats, the role of religion in peace and violence, and how our inner transformation plays a role. Social media, popular blogs, conferences, and multi-author books are rife with these questions, proposed answers, discussions, and sometimes heated arguments. These questions are front and centre in our M.A. and M.T.S. in Peace & Justice and Certificate program.
WE HAVE A DUAL YET INTEGRATED FOCUS ON PEACE THEOLOGY AND THE ROLE OF RELIGION IN PEACE AND VIOLENCE.
We engage a lived theology to inspire peacebuilding and reconciliation, and we learn how religion factors into peace and conflict by harnessing the values, teachings, rituals, and myths of all world religions to cultivate peaceful co-existence. JFI is therefore uniquely positioned to plumb the depths of the theological dimensions of peace and violence of a particular religion as a way to help us also understand how religion factors into both violent conflict and peaceful co-existence.
JFI HAS A CURRICULUM THAT'S ROBUST AND ACCESSIBLE TO STUDENTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.
JFI wanted to leverage our curricular expertise in a meaningful and coordinated way by focusing on teaching from the outset, resulting in our M.A. in Peace & Justice, M.T.S. in Peace & Justice, and our online graduate and undergraduate Certificate in Religion, Peace and Justice program that are taught by our core faculty and amazing guest lecturers and that focus on peace theology, our inner transformation, practical nonviolence, and interreligious co-existence.
JFI IS INTENTIONALLY PRACTICAL IN ITS FOCUS EVEN AS THIS IS SUPPORTED BY IDEAS AND ONE'S INNER TRANSFORMATION.
JFI aims to genuinely translate knowledge and inner transformation into practical experiences and actions. Our programs and courses deliberately focus on practical application and the concrete implications of a lived theology of peace as part of our students' preparation for their vocations and continuing independent and organizational peace and justice work.
WE EMPHASIS THE INNER TRANSFORMATION OF A PEACEMAKER TO ENCOURAGE ENEMY-LOVE AND NONVIOLENCE THAT'S AUTHENTIC.
Rather than mechanically conform to an ideology of nonviolence in a contrived manner or become a crusading advocate for peace out of frustration with a deluded world, JFI is interested in creating a space for cultivating the virtues of humility, gentleness, self-control, kindness, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to underpin one's inner transfiguration so that peacemaking and activism become intuitive and (super)"naturally" courageous and creative expressions.
WHO WE ARE
The Jim Forest Institute for Religion, Peace and Justice is a teaching, research, and resource institute of St. Stephen’s University that provides students, scholars, practitioners, and any thoughtful person with a robust education and experience that integrate attentiveness to one's inner transformation, peace theology and social justice, an understanding of the role of religion in peace and violence, and practical peacemaking as a vocation and way of life.
Ultimately, we aim to cultivate resurrection in a crucified world.
six-course, 8-month, university accredited online Certificate in Religion, Peace and Justice
M.A. and M.T.S. in Peace & Justice (hybrid-distance)
Online Peace Studies Track of an M.A. or M.Min in Theology & Culture from SSU
Local and overseas peace and justice-related practicums
Study Abroad Trip to Scotland & N.Ireland
The Kenarchy Journal (JFI's academic peer-reviewed journal)
Important research on peace theology, inner transformation, and religion in peace & violence
Archive to promote and preserve the legacy of Jim Forest (coming soon)
Events: lectures | symposiums | conferences | dialogues | pilgrimages
St. Bridgid Research Fellowship Program (coming soon)
A large and vocal segment of Christianity is unaware of the strong peace witness in the Scriptures and Christian history, and many other well meaning Christians are struggling to make sense of seemingly contradictory messages in the written and living Christian tradition that appears to endorse everything from genocide to radical nonviolence.
Students, scholars, practitioners, and laypeople often have a difficult time integrating peace theology (theory) and practical peacebuilding as a vocation and way of life (praxis). This is especially true when we factor in the volatility and complexity of today's ever-changing geopolitical landscape and the many intractable and emerging conflicts, interconnected global affairs, and attendant ethical dilemmas.
For example, on the theological side, there is a large segment of Christianity that wrestles with questions such as, How do we account for the times when God seems to endorse or even command violence and genocide in the Old Testament? Or why did Jesus command his disciples to take a sword with them in Lk. 22:38 and how do we account for Romans 13? Or what about soldier Saints, the just war theory, and the church's cooperation with state priorities including national security and wealth accumulation?
And on the practical side, even if Christians embrace peacemaking and Jesus' nonviolent way, they are simply unaware of any alternatives to stop or reduce the violence in the world—especially sectarian violence—other than through force and haven't been exposed to the courageous and creative peacebuilding and conflict transformation work being carried out around the world today. But even if these actions and initiatives are already known, people with a commitment to peace and nonviolence have a difficult time knowing what to do (or what they should do) when a threat presents itself, how to prepare for these challenging situations, how to make our peaceable behaviour a part of everyday life, or how to deal with our inevitable failure with patience and humility.
Therefore, a clear articulation of the peace witness in the Scriptures and Christian history and ways of making sense of the eclectic biblical passages that seem to promote both violence and nonviolence are desperately needed in today’s volatile world. Resources for communicating a peace-affirming way of thinking is lacking and research opportunities in these areas are scarce. JFI therefore seeks to provide the space, opportunity, and resources to wrestle with these challenges and explore the many options for achieving peace and coexistence without the use of force and coercion as informed by the ethical teachings and living example of Jesus.
Further, this deeper understanding of one's own faith tradition and the ways that theology shapes our practical life, political loyalties, embrace or critique of various economic systems and the ways we benefit from them, and preferred responses to challenges in our world including warfare and intra-state violence will help us better understand the thorny issue of religion's role in peace and violence. JFI therefore explores issues related to interreligious peacebuilding and hospitality, interfaith dialogue, and how religion is used as a surrogate for deeper political, economic, and other injustices and harms through the lens of peace theology and the challenges of peace and violence in the Christian faith.
Facilitating the connection between theology and inner transformation on the one hand and the more practical political and socio-economic challenges on the ground and in the public square on the other hand (locally, nationally, and globally) is also an urgent need. Therefore, an important focus of JFI's activities is the inner transformation of a peacemaker so that our focus on tactics, strategies, and methods are underpinned and animated by our attentiveness to the inner life.
With the understanding that the opposite of violence isn’t nonviolence but instead creativity, the Jim Forest Institute for Religion, Peace and Justice is not a venue that merely promotes an absolutistic pacifist position and leaves it at that (although this perspective is certainly welcome and encouraged). Rather, JFI aims to promote less violence and the hard work of creative peacebuilding, conflict transformation, interfaith dialogue, and the humanization of the Other through a sound theological foundation, inner transformation, relationship-building, creation of just and equitable institutions, and interreligious hospitality as alternatives to violent, unjust, and uncreative inner impulses and reactions that engender violence.
To help students, scholars, practitioners, and any thoughtful person genuinely reflect on and wrestle with issues of peace and violence through an engagement with Christian theology, Scriptures, and history in an ecumenical context and apply this process to contemporary challenges.
To be a teaching and research resource on issues related to the role of religion in peace and conflict and how to appropriate the values, teachings, rituals, and myths of the world religions to encourage peaceful coexistence.
To prepare students—through education, inner transformation, and practical experience—to be peacemakers amidst conflict and violence, from interpersonal and community conflicts to interreligious, interethnic, and international conflicts.