Let Freedom of Religion or Belief Pave the Way to Peaceful and Inclusive Societies

Peter Weiderud is Special Envoy for Religion in Conflict and Peace Building at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs  

Listening to the morning news, we might get the impression that religion has grown as a source of violence and conflict. The reported difference between Shia and Sunni can serve as an example. It has been a theological schism for centuries, but before 2003 not necessarily perceived as a “casus belli“. Today, according to the Conflict Data Base at Uppsala University, more than half of the world´s casualties of wars can be found along this rift, primarily in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. However, this does not necessarily mean that it is a religious conflict.

I have had the opportunity over the last 40 years to reflect on the role of religion in conflicts from multiple platforms—as journalist, politician, diplomat, and conflict mediator, but also from peace movements and religious organizations. In my experience, I still have not found any conflict that I would define as entirely religious. The struggles in Northern Ireland, in the Balkans, and between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not purely religious. Not even the Crusades, the Byzantine-Ottoman Wars, or the 30-Years War would qualify, in my view, as purely religious. Continue reading “Let Freedom of Religion or Belief Pave the Way to Peaceful and Inclusive Societies”