Religion and Peacebuilding Center

Center for Governance, Law, and Society

Religion is an important component in many conflict zones and can be a powerful tool for preventing violence. USIP has been a pioneer in the engagement of religion in peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts.

religion and peacemaking

The Religion and Peacebuilding Center was launched in July 2000 to analyze religious dynamics in conflict and to advance the peacebuilding roles of religious actors and organizations in conflict zones. R&P conducts research, identifies best practices, and develops peacebuilding tools for religious leaders and organizations.  The Center also works in multiple zones of conflict to strengthen peacebuilding programming that engages religious actors, organizations and institutions. Over the past thirteen years, the Center has helped define and shape the field of religious peacebuilding.  

Religion and Peacemaking Program’s Goals

Primary Goals:

  • To offer skills-training to religious actors and leaders so that they can serve effectively as peacebuilders in local, national, and international arenas.

  • To foster peaceful inter and intra-faith coexistence, respect for religious difference, and collaboration on shared problems across religious identity divides.

  • To offer groundbreaking research, analysis, and toolkits exploring the role of religion in conflict and peacebuilding.  

  • To counter and prevent violent extremism that has a religious dimension. 

Secondary Goals:

Religion and Peacemaking Program’s Operating Principles

  • A balanced, interfaith and intrafaith approach:  In every context we engage with multiple faith communities, seeking to transform religious divisions that drive conflict, including religious bias, and/or that stymie collaborative peacebuilding. 

  • Local ownership:  We take operational cues from local partners, seeking their guidance on how to navigate sensitive conflict and religious dynamics in their context, marrying that with our expertise and experience in operationalizing religious peacebuilding.  Working with local organizations, we develop a partnership that empowers them and strengthens their capacity to take leadership roles in designing and implementing religious peacebuilding.   

  • Sustained and sustainable projects:  We develop long-term relationships with partner organizations and participants in our programs, implementing multi-year projects that allow for greater impact locally and the deepening of relationships amongst those involved.  We also help to ensure that these projects have a life-cycle beyond the immediate support offered by USIP.

  • Integration of analysis and practical field work:  We use our multi-year projects as mechanisms to collect research and analysis to better inform scholarship and policymaking on religious peacebuilding.  R&P staff publish, present, and teach through journals, books, and at universities on lessons-learned in our field projects, seeking to advance the religious peacebuilding field as a whole. 

  • Collaboration with other USIP programs and centers: Religion is a cross cutting sector, often impacting the entire life cycle of conflict management (from prevention to reconciliation), and intersecting with other sectors and perspectives crucial to the work of building sustainable peace, including media, gender, and rule of law.  R&P thus partners, when appropriate, with other programs at USIP to ensure an integrated approach. 

Religion and Peacemaking Program’s Recent Projects

  • Pakistan:  Worked with the Pakistan Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution to write a textbook in Urdu on peace studies based on Islamic principles for use both in religious and secular schools.  The textbook has been endorsed by the religious schools supervisory board. The peace textbook is seeding the field of peace and conflict studies for religious and secular schools, whereby teachers are trained to teach the textbooks.  Another project provides mediation training to senior and mid-level Sufi leaders.
  • Iraq:  Partnered with the Council of Representatives Religious Affairs Committee in Baghdad and the Ministry of Religion in Erbil to hold conferences and offer workshops for imams on religious peacebuilding.  We have also trained a cohort of civil society facilitators on inter-religious peacebuilding and supported them in the implementation of community-level projects in key places throughout the country.
  • Burma/Myanmar:  Working with key religious leaders and institutions to strengthen interfaith dialogue and collaboration, develop Buddhist peace education, address escalating religious tensions, and provide peace training to religious actors.
  • Nigeria:  Partnering with the Centre for Regional Integration and Development in Nigeria to undertake a feasibility study regarding the introduction of vocational and peace education in Nigeria’s Quranic schools.
  • Women, Religion, Conflict, and Peace: A research initiative conducted in partnership with the Berkley Center for Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University which sheds light on the barriers and opportunities religion provides women seeking to build peace.