Perhaps you have heard the old quip – "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it."
Likewise, everybody knows of violence and injustice in the world, along with racial inequity, tension between religions, climate change, and on and on. But what can we do about it? Is there hope?
Grounded in Catholic social teaching and committed to respect for other worldviews and faiths, the Justice and Peace Studies department at the University of St. Thomas says:
Yes! There is hope.
Unlike the weather, we can do something. When our actions are based in living relationships with the poor and vulnerable of our neighborhoods and world, then deeper knowledge and critical analysis will empower us to "act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good" (UST Mission Statement).
The Justice and Peace Studies department builds on a philosophy of engaged learning we call "The Circle of Praxis." From early in their college careers we encourage students to get involved in real-life situations of injustice, poverty and social conflict. Students connect with other students on campus and with community organizations around Minneapolis-St. Paul. Many of our students do international study or urban immersion programs and do double majors.
Meanwhile, through the courses that we teach as well as other courses throughout the university, students develop tools to analyze the dynamics of power, wealth and cultural misunderstanding that create conditions of violence and injustice. In accord with the mission of the university to "educate morally responsible leaders" we also invite students to develop the moral vocabulary and commitments they need to engage diverse worldviews in debate and collaborative work towards greater justice and a more peaceful world.
New perspectives and knowledge aren't worth much, however, unless we act on what we are learning. So all along the way, the Justice and Peace Studies department invites students to explore possible actions that provide hope for positive social change. And then, as Justice and Peace Studies majors move toward graduation, we offer opportunities to fulfill our internship requirement by exploring – in the words of Gandhi – their own vocation to "be the change they seek in the world."
Thoughts from a Justice & Peace Studies Graduate
The Justice and Peace Studies department has in many ways become my home at St. Thomas. The community is open and giving, and the classes are just as welcoming for both questioning the current state of things and envisioning a new world. JPST has challenged me personally. It has helped me to live my life more intentionally, understanding that each choice I make has an effect on the world around me. Although many times I have left a JPST class or lecture feeling discouraged about the injustices present in our world, I have just as often left galvanized – ready to get out into the world and put what I’ve learned into life-changing action.