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Today, we witness the rise of national and regional conflicts - so-called “new wars” -, often linked to religious and ethnic diversity or enmity, usually triggered by unjust living conditions. In a globalized world, every regional conflict affects and is affected by the larger international community. At the same time we observe the devastating influence of violent conflicts on individuals as well as on relations within families and communities (trauma).

These developments have created a growing interest in the political and public arena to explore and develop skills for peace making and peace keeping – locally, regionally, and internationally – as well as for conflict prevention and post conflict care, like trauma healing. The challenges are taken up in a variety of disciplines: Political Science, Law, The Humanities, Medicine, et al. In the field of Theology and Religious Studies, all of these insights are considered and critically reflected (in research, education, and praxis) from the perspective of different faith traditions.


The specialisation Peace, Trauma, and Religion is a specialisation of the master programme Theology and Religion Studies. The specialisation is offered by the VU University's Faculty of Theology.

There are two semesters divided into six periods. In the first semester, the student will participate in the programme's educational courses with the exception of research skills and an academic paper in the second semester.


In the second semester, the students are required to follow an internship associated with the subject of the specialization and write their thesis. Students periodically come together during the Master Seminar sessions, which run through the course of the academic year.

There is also a non-obligatory yearly study excursion. 


The peace studies theoretical basis will be provided by three thematic modules with a focus on theological and interreligious interpretations of peace and justice, and religious roots of violence, reconciliation in religious perspective, healing of trauma, religion in the public domain (public theology).


You have developed knowledge, understanding and competences in the field of hermeneutics.

(1) You can demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the various definitions of hermeneutics in current scholarship as a basis for developing an adequate hermeneutic theory and praxis.

(2) You are competent to apply various hermeneutic theories to a case study pertinent to your
master specialization.

(3) You can integrate hermeneutic theory, where possible and relevant, into a larger (multi-disciplinary) frame of reference, especially with a view to the professional community and praxis and report about this.

(4) You can communicate the conclusions of your
research in a position paper written for a specialist (peer) audience.

(5) You can show that you are aware
of the complexities of "understanding" (or not-understanding), and can deal with them professionally in a largely self-directed learning process.

Just Peace

The ongoing ecumenical and interreligious debate on “Just Peace” will be presented and discussed. This includes a theological understanding and different approaches to peace as well as different models of justice (retributive vs. restorative and transitional justice).

From this different “testing fields” will be approached: The “Responsibility to Protect”, “Just Policing”, conflict transformation and reconciliation models as well as interreligious peace-building efforts.


This course focuses on the manner in which reconciliation is understood and embodied in faith communities. While Christian traditions often emphasize reconciliation in Christ as one of the cores of their faith, oftentimes it is Sunday that is the most segregated hour. Believers gather not only according to their confessional lines but often, and more primarily, according to their national or ethnic lines. The observed gap between confessed communal identities and lived socially divided realities is the starting point for a number of theological and social investigations. This course explores vulnerabilities and potentials of faith communities in the contexts of religiously and socio-culturally motivated (armed) conflicts.

Religion & Trauma 

This course deals with different shapes of violence and trauma (political, domestic, sexual, disaster) and the relation with religion. We will address theories on traumatization and reflect on the age old role of religion in coping with violence and trauma. We also discuss the fundamental theological question whether and how religion can offer answers to violence or is itself part of the problem.

Research Skills

Research mainly hit the tabloids for two reasons. It is either an enormous breakthrough in some field of science or it is proven enormously fraudulent. These circumstances, however, are two extremes of a vast area in which scholars are doing their best to come to good research results. No course can instruct a student how to reach a breakthrough, but a course in research skills can at least teach how to avoid the extremity of fraud and flawed science. This course aims for more, namely to show you how to set up good research, starting with the research question – everything within the boundaries of a correct argumentation scheme and with an eye for several phenomena relevant to theology and the study of religion(s).

Internship & Thesis

The second semester is devoted to internship and thesis work. Your Master’s specialization will equip you with a sound theoretical basis in peace & justice studies, trauma healing and reconciliation – from religious perspectives. You will gain the analytical, communicative and operational skills to become an independent professional in the field, both in governmental and non-governmental organizations, religious and spiritual institutions.

Master Seminar

During the module Master Seminar students develop and discuss a portfolio of their academic and professional qualities. This module is designed to run parallel to the other modules during the whole study-year in order to assure an individual accompaniment as well as a rich interdisciplinary and inter-religious exchange among students and in dialogue with lecturers from various fields.

Study Trip

In the second semester a one-week excursion to a foreign context is included (if possible) in order to study conflict and trauma as well as peace-building and reconciliation processes at first hand.


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