Print Edition: October 10, 2012
UFV has launched the development of Peace Studies, a new program that will focus on different approaches and practices of peacemaking, in a multicultural and multi-faith arena.
Ron Dart, an instructor in the Political Science department, was one of the driving forces behind this program’s development.
The beginning of the Peace Studies program was a long time coming. Its inspiration was none other than the Abbotsford Air Show. Dart was involved in an arts and peace festival that ran on the same weekend.
“Many of the planes that come here are war birds,” Dart explains. “They’re military planes, not interesting, harmless little heritage planes.”
Dart has been in active opposition to the show since the 1990s. In 1995, he wrote an article discussing the different stealth bombers and war planes at the show, the money put into them, and the number of people they’ve killed.
That article is now one of the 10 most censored articles in Canada.
“The seed of the program comes from both the flagship event [the air show] and the opposition to that. Peace activism because the air show is huge,” Dart explains.
The task of creating a new program is still in progress, and while its completion is still a few years away, the Political Science department is currently developing courses to get things going.
“We have a course right now, Western Peace Traditions, so a course is already being offered,” Dart explains. “It’s a history of war and peace and these large issues in the western tradition. In a multicultural context we’ll be doing courses on eastern oriental peace traditions as well.”
The intention is to also introduce courses on state peacekeeping, as well as courses on interfaith peacemaking that will examine the use of violence and peace within different faiths and ask questions about the nature of peace in communities.
“Really, it’s about the complex nature of peace,” Dart says. “Some equate peace with pacifism … and others see it as peace through strength.”
“And then there’s all those variations in between,” he continues. “Peace through strength, through strong military, through might, through power, and a whole variety of ways of people in between.”
Dart also spoke of initiating semester field trips. One example would be for students to spend a semester studying in Bethlehem, which would allow them to witness and study the conflict in Palestine in a more primary way.
“This would give students a more ‘in the trenches’ type approach to learning,” Dart says. “Once you actually see people who have suffered, it alters [you], in a way a book won’t.”
Peace is an idea that people and students are drawn to from all faiths and walks of life, and it’s one that the Peace Studies program hopes to explore from every direction.
“Historically, both within and between faith traditions, there’s been violence and conflict and fragmentation,” Dart says. “But there have also been women and men who’ve been peacekeepers and bridge builders, rather than continuing the fragmentation.”
Dart notes that career paths for Peace Studies students can vary. A Peace Studies graduate could end up in graduate school or teaching university classes, or become involved in any number of governmental or non-governmental groups. Another route for a Peace Studies student would be to become involved in politics, or work with religious groups and ethnic groups seeking healing and reconciliation after conflict.
At the end of the day, the options are wide and could lead a student almost anywhere.
“Each person would have to decide where their heart is leading them,” Dart says.