Theology and Religious Studies: Peace, Trauma and Religion

Religion(s) for conflict resolution and trauma healing
Specialization of:Theology & Religious Studies
Title:MA Theology & Religious Studies

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.
Religion is misused to incite violent conflicts as well as it is one of the strongest ethical and spiritual resources for conflict resolution and transitional justice – on the inter-personal level, the inter-groups level, as well as in reconciliation processes within whole societies.

This master programme aims to explore and teach theories, practices, and experiences and prepares professionals for this growing field of peace and conflict studies.

The 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 will explore and discuss scientific research in the fields of religion, violence, trauma and reconciliation from various disciplines, including (Peace-) Theology and Ethics, Islam Studies, Psychology, Practical Theology, amended by inputs from other faculties. – The study year might start with a concise summer-school (to be announced).

A first compulsory core module, Hermeneutics, treats the skills of interpretation and reflexivity. A second core module, Research Skills, aims to train the student in academic research practices, discussing problem formulation, methodology, and analysis.

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 interreligious exchange among students and in dialogue with lecturers from various fields.

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.

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.

This one-year master can lead to a Research Master by adding another year of studies at the VU.

Period I. Just Peace: Theological and Ethical Interpretations of Peace and Justice (6ECTS)
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 these different “testing fields” will be approached: The “Responsibility to Protect”, “Just Policing”, conflict transformation and reconciliation models as well as interreligious peace-building efforts.

Period I. Hermeneutics (6ECTS)
You have developed knowledge, understanding and competences in the field of hermeneutics, with special reference to the interpretation and use of sacred writings.
(1) You can demonstrate (in writing and/or in oral communication) 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.
(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 (i.e. society, academy and church) 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) [hermeneutic gap, text, author, reader, interpretive community, context, effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte), your own reader perspective or stance etc.] and
can deal with them professionally in a largely self-directed (autonomous) learning process (hermeneutical habitus).

Period II. Religion, Violence, and Trauma (Specialization Course Praxis 1) (6ECTS)
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.

Period II. Sunday the Most Segregated Hour: The Theology of the Church in the Light of its Message of Reconciliation (6ECTS)
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.|

Period III. Research Skills (6ECTS)
Research outcome 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).

Periods IV-V. Internship (12ECTS)
The internship is an important link between the theoretical academic education and the profession aimed at. Through the internship the student will learn how to apply theoretical knowledge in a professional field and how to recognize practical situations that needs theoretical reflection. Under the guidance of a senior professional the student learns how to function in a profession, how to act independently and responsibly, practices the required professional skills and gets acquainted with the rules of an organization of institution. The student gains work experience and contacts.

Periods IV-VI. Thesis (12ECTS)
The student is able to analyze a problem within the field of theology and/or religious studies and to write a coherent, well-defined and methodologically sound report on it.

All Periods. Master Seminar (6ECTS)
The master seminar is the concluding module of the 1 year master and the last module of the research master’s second year. The module offers a context in which the student shows and reflects upon his or her academic and professional qualities in dealing with complex challenges the
student is confronted with during internship and thesis research.

Study Trip
Intended as a recurring part of the master specialization Peace, Trauma, and Religion, a yearly study trip is part of the educational program. Participation is not obligatoty, however; a (relatively) small financial contribution of the student is required.

Detailed information on the programme

Theology & Religious Studies: Peace, Trauma & Religion courses in the study guide.

Students will find employment in a wide range of non-governmental as well as governmental institutions, media and research, international organizations as well as religious institutions, or in the field of health care and counselling.

The faculty offers the opportunity to continue the one-year programme with a second year to complete the Research Master (leading to a possible PhD programme).

  • Study in the beautiful and multicultural city of Amsterdam.
  • Participate in a diverse, multi-religious community of learners.
  • Enjoy a unique combination of structure and flexibility in your programme.
  • Take advantage from personal interaction with and individual supervision from professors.
  • Benefit from top-level research and high-quality research-based teaching.
  • Profit from the strong bonds between the faculty and various societal organisations and initiatives.
  • In 2018 the Faculty of Religion and Theology was ranked number 5 in the world by the QS World University Rankings.

Former students on peace, trauma and religion

Farah DeventerMy experience studying Peace, Trauma and Religion has been enriching. This program is interdisciplinary, international and inter-religious. I cherished this because various students gathered together to learn and dialogue about vital social topics that are relevant to our world today. The theology department at the VU highly values awareness of one's personal perspective. I have found that a personal awareness of my own perspective is vital when striving towards peace building! This teaching in combination with the diversity of students broadened my personal faith in new ways. Our trip to Israel-Palestine was a learning experience, not only through various lectures but also through speaking with everyday people who live in conflict zones. Through these experiences I gained new insights on peace building. Lastly, I valued this program because it gave students the freedom to focus on what areas they were interested in.

Mujab SaifulWhy did you decide to study the “Peace, Trauma, Religion” (PTR) program at the VU Amsterdam?
It is undeniable that some religious teachings contain violence and some people accuse religions for causing conflicts nowadays. But I faithfully believe that religion´s promotion and contribution for peace is uncountably a lot more. Hence, I chose to study Religions from a peace perspective.

How did you like the Master Specialization “Peace, Trauma, Religion” (PTR) program and why would you recommend it to other students?
I do recommend friends who are into conflict studies to take this specialization, since, in todays contexts, we cannot separate conflict (and peace) from religion.
In addition to study the role of religion in trauma healing and reconciliation, I learned to understand conflicts, the “just peace” paradigm, restorative justice from multi-religious perspectives, research skills and a lot more. Furthermore, this specialization, with the combination of three fields (PTR), is the only major of its kind in the world. In addition, the faculty of Theology at VU Amsterdam is one of 7 best Theology faculties in the world.
The PTR program provides well-prepared courses supported by qualified experts in their fields. Beyond the regular classes, the PTR program offered interesting programs such as a summer-school, a study trip to a conflict area (Israel/Palestine), series of guest lectures, colloquiums, Ph.D forums, etc. Lastly, the program is very supportive to students, especially for the beginners in the field, like me. This one-year program has really been enriching.

Could you share a bit about your background?
I grew up in a traditional Sunni-Muslim family. My parents sent me to Islamic schools from elementary (six years in Islamic boarding schools), till I studied Islamic theology in Walisongo State Islamic University. I am affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama’, an Indonesian-based moderate muslim organization.

Indonesia is my country, home to diverse cultures, ethnic groups, languages, and beliefs. If you get used to a country with one island, you can imagine how Indonesia is struggling to organize a democracy of more than 17,000 islands – in all its diversity. Both backgrounds, religion and nationality, have shaped who I am today, an Indonesian Muslim.

As an international student: how was it to study in abroad, in Amsterdam (in terms of living, experiencing a new culture, relating to a new university and other student?
The atmosphere of PTR program has been beyond my expectations. I enjoyed being in and out of classes. In classes, I felt warmly accepted and fully appreciated by friends. The bond among friends, the director of the PTR program, and faculty members was very close. Outside the classes, I spent time with friends and lecturers. We enjoyed barbeque and gatherings in the director’s apartment and a classmate house. This relationship empowered me to finish my master study.

Amsterdam is a city that warmly welcomes dwellers from around the world. It can be seen from kinds of people I met in metro and everywhere. People are free to be who they are. My rough conclusion is that as long as we respect others’ freedom and follow the regulations, we live happily in Amsterdam.

One difficulty I experienced; Amsterdam is crazy for housing!

Britt BakerWhy did you choose to study the PTR program at the VU Amsterdam?
My Ba in Sociology at the VU and a minor in Morocco sparked a motivation in me to study diversity in the broadest sense; ethnic, racial, religious. I want to make a difference; building bridges between segregated groups. I had studied International Crimes and Criminology at the faculty of Law, to understand segregation and conflict on national and international levels. During that time, I realized that understanding the abstract nature of international criminal law doesn’t leave me equipped to understand the complexity of people’s religious motivations; why does conflict start between religious groups on grassroots level? And how can you solve this from on a local or even international level? In addition to my masters in law, the PTR program offered exactly that understanding of individual and collective (religious) motivations, allowing me to comprehend religious diversity in an interdisciplinary manner.

How did you find the Master Specialization Peace Trauma and Religion (PTR) program and why would you recommend it to other students?
I would suggest this program to future MA students who desire to create a deeper understanding of multiple religions, with both theological as well as societal aspects; the key is in the combination. The program helped me to understand the ‘language‘ that people speak across a variety of faith backgrounds. I feel much more comfortable to join theological discussions in a range of religious traditions now, which opens doors to participate in the field, understanding rituals, (religious) conflicts and its much-desired transformations.

Could you share a bit about your background?
I started this program with zero knowledge of theology; I had studied social sciences and law before. However, because you work in a small group in the PTR program, and you have the chance to ask questions and discuss all the time, this program is open to all academic backgrounds. You will find that a very diverse group of students enters this program, and you will create cross-cultural and even theological understanding by just being together as the ‘PTR community.’ This interdisciplinary nature of the program is definitely one of its strengths.

What is your perception/experience in regard to career prospects after having been part of the PTR program?
I currently work at the Diversity Department at the VU. Here I do research and organize programs to manage the cultural and religious diversity of students and staff at the VU. Where you will end up after completing this program is up to you. I personally believe that this program can benefit a variety of career paths; whether you are religious or not, whether you are a lawyer, a social worker or politician. The knowledge and skills you require in this program are of great help, professionally and on a personal level, in a multi-cultural society in which religious tensions and diversity are often at the center stage of attention.

Dutch students

Students holding a Bachelor’s degree from a Dutch University (WO) are directly eligible for admittance in this Master’s programme.

Students with a suitable HBO degree can apply for a premaster’s programme (this programme is taught in Dutch). Our Admission Board will have to approve your request for admission.

You need to apply before July 15th in Studielink. The registration has to be completed before August 31.

Students who wish to pursue a second master, can apply for a Scholarship provided by the faculty. This scholarship covers a large part of the tuition fee for a second master.

More information and application procedure

(Nederlandse versie)

For questions about the programme:
Contact Fernando Enns,

VU Public Relations Office 
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 to 17:00). You may also e-mail us at:

img_210x316_fernando-ennsprof. dr Fernando Enns (
Fulco van Hulst
Andrés Pacheco Lozano
prof. dr. Katya Tolstaya
prof. dr Ruard Ganzevoort
dr. Srdjan Sremac
prof. dr Eddy van der Borght

Information Days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. 

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s Programme Theology and Religious Studies, specialization in Peace, Trauma and Religion
Students with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology or Religious Studies from a university abroad will only be admitted following an assessment of their degree by the admissions board. 

Students with Bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines are also welcome to apply, provided that the degree obtained is from a research-oriented university. Before the start of the academic year the student needs to have an intake with the coordinator of the specialization. The aim of this intake is to discuss possible deficiency in theological knowledge of the student.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. We require a TOEFL score (score 580 paper based, score 237 computer based or score 92 internet based) or an IELTS score of 6.5 overall band score. Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C. 

Please check out the Admission page for the general requirements.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses followed and literature used during your previous higher education.

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via e-mail.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information:
Tuition fees

As an international student planning to study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries.

Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on or

Additional Scholarship offered by the faculty: Mijntje Pruissen Scholarship
Mijntje Pruissen Scholarship
is a Merit scholarship programme for strongly motivated international students with excellent study results. Eligible candidates must be able to prove their academic excellence, and they must be admitted to the Master’s programme in Theology and Religious Studies (all specializations, and both the one- and the two-year Master’s programme). This concerns English taught Master’s programmes only.

Students eligible for this scholarship are students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are applying for an English taught Master’s programme in Theology and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Religion and Theology. Students with the Dutch nationality and/or a Dutch degree (if the Dutch degree is used for admission) are not eligible for admission.

The scholarship amounts to €5,000. Application deadline: April 1st.

For more information or questions about the procedure please send an e-mail to Stipo Jeleč,

Scholarships for second master students
Students who wish to pursue a second master, can apply for a Scholarship provided by the faculty. This scholarship covers a large part of the tuition fee for a second master.

More information and application procedure.

For questions about the programme
Contact Fernando Enns,

For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:
Stipo Jeleč
T: + 31 (0)20 598 8920

VU Public Relations Office 
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 to 17:00).
You may also e-mail us at:

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

Overview Theology & Religious Studies: Peace, Trauma and Religion




1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time)



July 15th for Dutch and EU-students. April 1st for non-EU students.


Part-time, Full-time


specialization of Theology & Religious Studies (1 year)