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Peace teachers talk about the individual and religion

Pioneer peace educator Elise Boulding says there's a need within her field for a greater recognition of what religion can contribute to the achievement of peace. Mrs. Boulding, who headed the peace studies program at Dartmouth College before her recent retirement, says that, generally speaking, the field has conveyed a ``strong secular sense of education, where, if you can get the right training, or figure the right political mechanism, you might have peace.'' But, she adds, ``there is a connection between the individual's spiritual life and the broader need for peace in the world.'' Ultimately university courses alone can't go far enough toward helping craft that inner person, she suggests. Difficult to teach Michael Nagler, a professor of classics who also teaches peace studies at the University of California in Berkeley, agrees this kind of inner development is important. He sees some signs of recognition among teachers and students that matters of the spirit have a bearing on the type of thinking one does about peace. Professor Nagler says such education is difficult to teach in the classroom, but he feels it will be imperative to the peace process. This is one reason many peace programs stress courses in which students must learn to work successfully with one another, he notes.

Nagler has found an ``increased awareness'' since the mid-'70s that ``the problems of the world are not divorced from human consciousness.'' He cites religious thinkers who say that dealing with toxic waste in the environment may, at a deeper level, be related to eradicating ``the toxic waste of human greed and hatred.'' Too mystical or too scientific

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The peace field itself attracts a variety of different spiritual thinkers and seekers. And this has caused something of an argument in the field between one side which is criticized as being ``too mystical,'' and the other which is charged with being ``too scientific.''

Elise Boulding offers a peacemaking solution to the divisiveness by emphasizing that the important task is the development of moral character, which everyone needs to learn. This means understanding the importance of self-sacrifice, and having ``discipline over oneself -- to accomplish something without someone else telling you to.'' Tolkien had it right

Political scientist and author Walter Truett Anderson likens the role of the ordinary citizen who sets out to educate himself about today's global issues to that of Bilbo Baggins, the beloved ``hobbit'' in the novels of fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien. Baggins, a small, comfort-loving creature who disliked adventure because it made him late for dinner, finds himself swept up in events that affect the general welfare of his world. Baggins accepts the challenge reluctantly at first. But in trusting an intelligence greater than himself, he journeys forth -- and in his own humble way, deals with cosmic questions of good and evil, makes discoveries, and is an important help to his fellow creatures.

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