(DENVER) — Passion, compassion, empathy and history fuel Kelly Baker’s mission-based Justice and Peace work. An Iliff School of Theology (Iliff) alumna, Baker earned her master’s degree in 2013 in the school’s Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC) Program. Through a joint program with Catholic Relief Services, she participated in an internship program, studying half a world away at the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) in Bethlehem.
“I am authentically pro-peace and pro-justice; I am anti-occupation and anti-oppression. It is because of this that I have found myself on the side of the Palestinians working for freedom, justice, and an end to the occupation,” Baker said. “It was through my work in youth ministry programs that I chose my course of study, and really my life’s course. Iliff was the place for me because of its Justice and Peace Studies program and the school’s unique approach to theological study. Iliff offered exactly what I was seeking to enable me to offer scholarly answers and historical context to the questions I was fielding as a teacher, as well questions that I was struggling with as a believer.”
In her work for ARIJ, Baker served on the research study team that co-wrote the research report “Measuring and Developing Social Capital in the Democratization and Governance Process in Palestinian Civil Society Organizations,” a product of an USAID grant-funded research project.
“The age-old Israel – Palestine issue is not well understood, and therefore, can be a pretty unpopular topic, Baker added. “I have a challenge, because my core values and interests hold that I talk about the two things that most people are encouraged not to talk about — politics and religion. What makes it even more challenging is that I find it essential to look at how religion and people’s faith systems influence their politics and how this then influences public and foreign policy.”
“The holy land is important to me. I have lived my life in the church and traveled to the region many times; I have relationships with people both professional and friendly, sometimes not mutually exclusive; and care deeply about Palestine and its people. Studying at Iliff helped me to further understand the region’s issues relative to socio-political and social change, and my experiences have shaped the call I feel to help effect change.”
“My work for ARIJ, was invaluable to me. Interning in the region, speaking with people, interviewing citizens, seeing, feeling touching was so enriching. The critical research and processes I undertook deepened my understanding of how international development plays out on the world stage. Additionally, the program furthered my knowledge and analysis of relationship between Civil Society Organizations, Non-governmental organizations, and international aid agencies,” she said. “Americans, have boldly gone, without prescription, into the region and endeavored to force change in ways that are impractical and unhelpful; we can do better, we have to do better.”
Baker shared the published report from her work with ARIJ. Review it here:
For information about Iliff’s program, go to Master of Arts in Social Change.