Anne Figge is used to the reaction when she answers the question, What did you major in?
"I cant tell you how many blank stares Ive gotten when I say that I have a degree in peace studies. I always sheepishly flash a peace sign and say it again."
Figge, 24, will leave in September for Cape Town, South Africa, where she will serve a year with the Episcopal Church Young Adult Service Corps, concentrating on reconciliation work. Although she received her degree from Colgate University, a small, nonsectarian, liberal arts college in upstate New York, she finds that her major has had a large impact on her faith life. Her program, like most peace studies programs, was interdisciplinary - required courses included womens studies, sociology, international relations, and language.
"It changed the way I saw the world around me," says Figge. "I feel pretty certain that I wouldnt have pursued a faith-based, international service program if I hadnt first had exposure to peace studies. It heavily informs my spiritual life."
When Jesus referred to Jerusalems ignorance of the things that make for peace, he likely was not speaking of those things learned through books, classrooms, or internships. But the study of peace in an academic setting can provide valuable tools for analyzing and addressing conflict, from the international level down to corporations, local governmental disputes, the justice system, the church, even the home.
Peace means many things to many people and often seems like an ethereal concept (perhaps because it is so elusive in our day-to-day world). But the study of peace brings one smack up against very concrete realities.