Susan Hayward

Director, Religion and Inclusive Societies

Susan Hayward is the director of religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Hayward directs the Institute’s efforts to advance conflict prevention, resolution and reconciliation projects engaging the religious sector. Since joining the Institute in 2007, her field work has focused on Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Colombia and Iraq. From 2010-2012 she coordinated an initiative exploring the intersection of women, religion, conflict and peacebuilding in partnership with the Berkley Center at Georgetown University and the World Faiths Development Dialogue. She co-edited a book on the topic entitled Women, Religion and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen. Her research interests include interfaith engagement in the midst of political violence, political Buddhism and the role of religion in hampering and propelling women’s work for peace and justice. She also serves on the international selection committee for the Niwano Peace Prize, which recognizes religious peacebuilders.

Prior to joining the Institute, Hayward worked with the Academy of Educational Development’s office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as a fellow of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and with the Conflict Resolution Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Hayward also conducted political asylum and refugee work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Advocates for Human Rights.    

Hayward studied Buddhism in Nepal and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She holds a bachelor's degree in comparative religions from Tufts University and master’s degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard Divinity School. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in theology and religious studies at Georgetown University, focusing on Buddhist and Christian theological responses to authoritarianism and conflict in Myanmar.


Expert In the News

Articles & Analysis from this Expert

February 2, 2016

Muslim scholars and intellectuals from more than 120 countries issued a new pledge of support last week for the protection and freedom of religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities. Susan Hayward, USIP’s director of religion and inclusive societies and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, attended the three-day conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, as a supporter, and explains the significance of the pronouncement.


September 30, 2016
In January 2016, the Marrakesh Declaration was issued by Muslim scholars and politicians as a concerted response to the persecution of and violence against minorities in Muslin-majority countries. This report, published with the Cambridge Institute on Religion and International Studies, provides background on the Marrakesh Declaration and recommendations to those from both Muslim and non-Muslim majority contexts to ensure the Declaration’s implementation and legitimacy.
September 15, 2015
Women, Religion, and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen examines the obstacles and opportunities that women religious peacebuilders face as they navigate both the complex conflicts they are seeking to resolve and the power dynamics in the insti­tutions they must deal with in order to accomplish their goals.
August 3, 2012
The maturing field of religious peacebuilding faces challenges in integrating with secular peacebuilding efforts, engaging women and youth, and working more effectively with non-Abrahamic religious traditions.
September 10, 2010
This report reflects on historic examples of the role of religious resources in supporting and mitigating the outbreak of genocide and mass atrocity. The main recommendations outline ways to counteract the use of religion to incite mass violence and to engage with religious communities in genocide prevention.

External Publications

  • “Women of Faith and the Practice of Peacebuilding,” in Scott Appleby, John Paul Lederach, Atalia Omer and David Little (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding. Oxford: OUP, 2014.
  • “Democratization, Communal Violence, and Contesting Buddhist Narratives in Contemporary Myanmar.” With Matthew J. Walton. Policy Studies.  Washington, DC: East West Center, 2014.
  • “Swords to Ploughshares, Theory to Practice: an Evolution of Religious Peacebuilding at USIP.” In Sumner B. Twiss, Marian Simion, and Rodney Peterson (eds.), Religion and Public Policy: Human Rights, Conflict, and Ethics.  London: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Fostering Synergies for Advancing Women’s Rights in Post-Conflict Islamic States: A Focus on Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya.” with Hamid Khan, Kathleen Kuehnast, Manal Omar.  Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2013.
  • “Facilitated Religious Dialogue.” With Lucy Kurtzner-Ellenbogen. In David Smock and Dan Serwer (eds.), Facilitating Dialogue. Washington, DC: USIP Press, 2012.
  • “Buddhism and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka,” in Tim Sisk (ed), Between Terror and Tolerance: Religious Leaders and Conflict Management. Washington, DC:  Georgetown University Press, 2011.
  • “Collaborative Conflict Resolution in Christianity.” In Susan Thistlethwaite (ed), Interfaith Just Peacemaking.New York: Palgrave, 2011.
  • Engaging Across Divides: Interfaith Dialogue for Peace and Justice” in State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010. London: Minority Rights Group International (July 2010). 20-29.