So What CAN You Do With a History Major–Part 38

Work for peace and reconciliation in Egypt.

Matthew Bucher (left) graduated from Messiah College in 2006.  He was a history major pursuing teaching certification.  I knew Matt enjoyed teaching, but I also knew that his heart was set on working for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in a peacemaking and conflict-resolution capacity.  After student teaching at an inner-city high school in Harrisburg, Matt headed off to Egypt where he spent four years with an MCC Peacemaker Team.

Recently, Mary-Grace McNeil, a writer for Messiah College’s Public Relations Office and another former student of mine, caught up with Matt.  Here is a taste of her article:

Bucher’s passion for service began during his years at Messiah as a history education major with a peace and conflict studies minor. “After participating with a short-term Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Israel/Palestine as a part of my peace studies minor, I knew I wanted to return to the Middle East,” Bucher explained.

From July 2007-May 2011, Bucher served with the Mennonite Central Committee in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese in ll-Qosseya, Egypt. Bucher’s responsibilities while living in what he explains was the “hub of all church-activity in town” included preparing and leading peace-building workshops and teaching English courses to Muslims and Christians. “In both programs, we emphasized relationship building and sought nonviolent strategies to solving conflicts,” he said.

Bucher attributes his preparedness for his service assignment to his education at Messiah. “Whether thinking historically while reading Egyptian history, employing pedagogical strategies while teaching English as a second language or preparing trauma healing workshops, I noted many times how formed I was from my time at Messiah,” Bucher said.  

His training in peaceful conflict solving was even more helpful during the 25 January Egyptian Revolution as the country searched for solutions and healing amidst a drastic shift in the political climate. A series of monumental events indicated that President Mubarak’s ability to control Egypt was slipping, and the people responded with the initial uprising on Jan. 25. The following 18 days of organized protests forced Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11, 2011. However, his ousting did not undo the complex problems of Egypt’s leadership.

“When I left Egypt in May 2011, many people were angry and fearful,” Bucher said. “Increased instability and a struggling economy have been two of the early results of the 25 January Egyptian Revolution.” Unfortunately, the military leaders who assumed power after Mubarak’s abdication have led with Mubarak’s methods of military trials of civilians and short-sighted decision making. The resulting reduction in tourism is damaging the economy, placing an additional stress on the country and its people…

…Now, Bucher is back in the U.S. at Eastern Mennonite University pursuing a dual master’s degree in conflict resolution and divinity. He reflected on his service in Egypt as “an honor and a privilege,” speaking with gratitude of the treasured relationships he built and plans to maintain. “While I would likely jump at the chance to live in Egypt [again], I am trying to remain open to God’s leading,” he said. “Whether that takes me to the Middle East, Harrisburg or even a farm in rural Pennsylvania, I pray that I have the courage to take the next step.”

Matt will be the first to tell you that his study of history prepared him well for the work he has just completed in Egypt.  Learning to listen to people from a “foreign country”–whether it be in contemporary Egypt or 18th-America–helped him to develop skills of understanding, empathy, and compassion that he will take with him wherever he is called to go.  I think Matt would agree that the study of history prepares one well for work in an international context.

Are you wondering what to do with your history major?  Check out our “So What Can You Do With a History Major” series here.