George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution student creates peace-building program for school children

August 21, 2018   /   by Mary Lee Clark

Siyabulela Mandela and Coren Jonathan Allen

Coren Jonathan Allen spent 22 years in the Army before enrolling as a master’s degree student at George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution last fall at age 46. ​

He had already written a book drawing on his experiences in conflict zones throughout the Middle East and Africa. Using what he’s learned at the school, he has developed a peace-building curriculum based on the foundations laid out in his book. ​

Allen said the book, “What if It Just Started Raining?,” was inspired by a lifetime of education and experiences and is similar in nature to the moral lessons taught in “Aesop’s Fables” and books by Dr. Seuss. His book includes peace-building lessons for both children and adults that he said are geared toward fighting the root causes of conflict and war.​

“Just as rain replenishes the dry soil of the earth, acts of good can replenish the dry soul of humanity,” he said. “When we are good to each other, life is better.” ​


"What if It Just Started Raining?" has been released in multiple languages including Russian.

He came to the school after he showed his book to Marc Gopin, a professor at the school and the director of the Center on World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. A senior chaplain in the Army connected the two men because of their shared commitment to inserting peace-building and relationship-building into war zones, Gopin said. 

A 1994 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Allen retired from the Army in 2016. He served as a combat helicopter pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom and as a theater planner, and he participated in multiple exercises and humanitarian missions throughout 13 countries in Europe and Africa. He worked in and visited more than 29 countries on 5 continents during his time in the Army.

“Coren is a very passionate young man with a deep commitment to peace,” said Gopin. “I have been happy to see him grow and progress in seeking out higher education in conflict resolution, while at the same time pursuing his beloved project for a book to inspire people for peace.” 

The curriculum has been formally evaluated and approved by Prince William County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, where Allen’s children attend school, as well as in the Republic of Zambia. It comprises five lessons based on the five chapters in the book. 

"These inhumane things we do to one another always trace back to education,” said Allen. “Evil acts of violence rip the world apart, but always, the idea comes first. These ideas are always planted by the seeds of information from multiple sources which ultimately trace to another human.”

Siyabulela Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson and a PhD student at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, has written a forward to Allen’s current book and will be writing a sequel with him called “What if There Was No ‘Other’?”

“With this book, Coren has given all of us an incredible gift. ‘What if It Just Started Raining?’ is a simple, yet powerful, message of unifying hope for humanity,” Mandela wrote. “While indeed a children’s book, the message within is for all of us.”

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