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Kathleen Schunckel writes:Three small colleges in Indiana are engaged in a multimillion-dollar collaboration called Ploughshares to bring national renown to their studies about peace and justice.

The Indiana collaboration-named after the verse in the Old Testament’s Book of Isaiah that calls for people to ‘beat their swords into ploughshares’ and abandon war, is funded by a four-year $13.8 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, which is based here.

‘We have this big and audacious idea that three small colleges in Indiana, each associated with an historic peace church, will take our peace studies work and spread it across Indiana, the United States, and around the world,’ said Douglas Bennett, president of Earlham College.

Earlham, a Quaker school is working with a Mennonite school, Goshen College and a Church of the Brethren school, Manchester College in North Manchester. All three denominations are pacifist, and in some sense there is nothing new to their cooperation. During World War II they established Civilian Public Service, a national system of work camps for conscientious objectors to do volunteer work rather than join the military.

In the latest collaboration Ploughshares plans to bring famous speakers to Indianapolis to discuss peace topics, build a world-class peace-studies online library, and establish a Peace House in a low-income Indianapolis neighbourhood by fall 2004. There undergraduate students will study for a semester and live out their peace convictions by working with victims of violence, perhaps at a women’s shelter or in an impoverished school.

‘Action becomes the basis for what you believe,’ said Goshen senior Tim Nafziger, who said he appreciated most that the Lilly grant will allow students to have more real-life opportunities outside the classroom.

For decades, each liberal arts school has quietly taught courses on peace in their small towns. Many graduates have gone on to prestigious careers in which they have put peace studies to work.

For example, Andrew Cordier, who helped found the United Nations and later became president of Columbia University, was a Manchester graduate.

Manchester College is also home to the nation’s first peace studies program, established in 1948, about 20 years before similar programs were established. Today there are about 300 such programs at 250 US universities. For decades, each school has quietly taught courses on peace in their small towns.

Lilly’s gift isn’t the largest for peace studies in recent years. In 2001, philanthropist Joan B. Kroc gave $25 million to establish a peace centre at the University of San Diego.

Each of the three colleges has a long tradition of sending students to study abroad and work for peace in places like Colombia, Israel, and Northern Ireland. The Lilly grant will help more students afford such trips abroad, as well as bring more international students to Ploughshare events. And the grant will allow each college to hire an additional professor of peace studies, buy more peace literature, and enhance technology so that more work can be shared among the three schools.

A major portion of the Lilly grant will boost the college’s peace efforts in Indianapolis through the Peace House. Those working in the program want to reach out to people of various faiths and to the business community, with Peace House perhaps providing workshops on workplace conflict resolution or hosting discussions about curtailing anti-Islamic sentiment.

Parker Marden, president of Manchester College, envisions reaching out to organizations like the American Legion, which has its headquarters in Indianapolis, and listening to its members’ opinions about war and peace. Even though some on campus objected, his school posted blue-star banners it was given by the Legion Auxiliary to signify that it had staff members fighting in the war in Iraq.

While the schools may all have pacifist traditions, not every faculty member, staff member, and student is a pacifist, Marden pointed out. He is not even a member of the Church of the Brethren. ‘We want to connect with all the different interests in Indianapolis,’ he said. ‘So much of what we do transcends the political. We work in reconciliation in all its many forms, such as in race relations, too.’ Earlier this year, one of Goshen’s peace-studies professors did something that left a lasting impression on students. Carolyn Schrock-Shenk, who had long led antiwar demonstrations in the community, approached one of her critics in town, a mother whose soldier son was serving in Iraq. The two talked about their differences and came to a better understanding of one another.

Earlham’s Bennett and others say that outreach efforts like Schrock-Shenk’s and Ploughshares are key to establishing peace in their communities.

‘If we don’t come to peace until the moment violence is about to erupt, we will always believe violence is the door to change,’ Bennett said. ‘At the moment an explosion goes off, we don’t yell, Where are the chemists?’ to stop it.’

For several years now students from Earlham College have contributed to the PPU’s work during their time in London.






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