Religion’s Roles in Peacebuilding: Religion and Interfaith Engagement in Times of Conflict and Disaster

Sharon Eubank is director of Latter-day Saint Charities. The following is an edited summary of her remarks at the ICLRS 29th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium, 4 October 2022.

As I see the great difficulties around the world, my greatest concern is that the rise of identity politics has pushed people into smaller and smaller boxes until they don’t have anything in common with anybody else. The question that galvanizes me is, What could we do as societies, cultures, and religious communities to weave social fabric back together? What practically would make that kind of difference? Today, I will pose three related questions, share some examples I’ve observed from around the world, and issue an invitation.


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Religion and Peace

Daniel Philpott is a professor of Political Science at Notre Dame University. He delivered the following remarks as a keynote address on “Religion’s Role in Peacebuilding” at the ICLRS International Law and Religion Symposium on 2 October 2022.

Wanted: An Effective Peacemaker

Engage with me in a thought experiment. Imagine a civil servant in the foreign ministry of an African country that has been immersed in a civil war that has lasted fifteen years and taken thousands of lives. The African Union and United Nations diplomats have each made efforts at mediation, but they have failed, and the fighting now looks likely to escalate.

Desperate for an effective mediator, the foreign ministry official places an advertisement in a listing that is likely to be read widely by governments, NGOs, and other organizations. “Wanted: An effective peacemaker,” it reads. The advertisement explains that the peacemaker ought to have a long-term presence among the country’s people and not be a powerful outside state or an NGO who is likely to operate for a short time and then leave, according to its political interests or the wishes of its donors. The person should be part of an organization that has deep ties and credibility among the grassroots of its country, as well as connections among intermediate and elite levels and in official international circles. The organization should not be tied closely with only one side of the conflict such that it would be seen as a partisan. The organization ought to have a strong mission statement that commits it to peacebuilding as one of its fundamental activities and roots this activity in its basic beliefs. And it ought to have top staff people who are experienced in building peace and negotiating in difficult conflicts. 


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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. (more…)

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