Religion influences both peace and conflict worldwide. Violent extremism is often framed in religious terms, and religious discrimination continues to increase as both a driver and symptom of conflict. But, religion drives peace and coexistence as well and religious actors are essential for advancing religious freedom. Efforts to engage religious actors in countering violent extremism (CVE) and interfaith peacebuilding must take this dichotomy into account. On July 27, the International Republican Institute, Search for Common Ground, and the U.S. Institute of Peace hosted two panel discussions that explored the nexus of international religious freedom, CVE, and interfaith peacebuilding.

Perpetrators of violence in the name of a religion often target vulnerable religious minorities, resulting in increased discrimination, social hostility and extremist behavior. Within this scenario it is essential to understand the role religion plays, not only in providing theological beliefs but also in offering a sense of emotional and social belonging, spiritual meaning, and structure.  

Misunderstanding religion’s role in people’s lives risks alienating potential allies from faith communities and civil society. The first discussion explored how policymakers and practitioners can engage religious actors in CVE efforts in ways that ensure protection and the advancement of international religious freedom. The second panel looked at how interfaith peacebuilding can positively impact state policy related to religion and minority rights by building constructive relationships between groups in divided societies.

These panels were organized as a side event of the U.S. State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Join the conversation on Twitter with #IRFMinisterial and #IRFSummit.

Agenda

Opening Remarks

  • Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Former U.S. Representative from Virginia 
  • Tony Garrastazu, Senior Director, Center for Global Impact, International Republican Institute

Panel 1: Religious Engagement in CVE

  • Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, President, Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies
  • Humera Khan, President, Muflehun
  • Oliver Wilcox, Deputy Director, Countering Violent Extremism, Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State
  • Rev. Prof. Fadi Daou, Chair and CEO, Adyan Foundation, Professor, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik 
  • Moderator: Nancy Lindborg, President, U.S. Institute of Peace

Panel 2: Interfaith Peacebuilding

  • His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje 
  • Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria
  • Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), President, Divine Shakti Foundation 
  • Rev. Susan Hayward, Senior Advisor, Religion and Inclusive Societies, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • ModeratorMike Jobbins, Senior Director of Partnerships and Engagements, Search for Common Ground

Related Publications

Conflict Prevention in the COVID Era: Why the U.S. Cannot Afford to Go it Alone

Conflict Prevention in the COVID Era: Why the U.S. Cannot Afford to Go it Alone

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

By: Corinne Graff; Laura E. Bailey

As the United States and other international actors assess the wreckage reaped by the coronavirus pandemic around the world, estimates are that an unprecedented level of aid will be needed to mitigate its worst impacts in fragile states. Given the ballooning costs of COVID-response efforts, the U.S. will need to deepen its partnerships with other international donors and local actors to bolster accountable and inclusive institutions and prevent conflicts and violence from escalating. Equally important, but less discussed, these international efforts will need to focus on managing a more complex global risk landscape that is emerging from the pandemic.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Global Health

America can build peace better—if it includes women.

America can build peace better—if it includes women.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

By: Amanda Long; Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

The United States is making a publicly little-noted stride this month to strengthen its response to the violent crises worldwide that have uprooted 80 million people, the most ever recorded. Officials are overhauling America’s method for supporting the “fragile” states whose poor governance breeds most of the world’s violent conflict. Yet the proven new approach—helping these countries meet their people’s needs and thus prevent violence and extremism—will fall short if its implementation fails to include and support women in every step of that effort. Fortunately, an earlier reform to U.S. policy offers practical lessons for doing so.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Gender

Amid COVID, We Need Enhanced International Coordination to Build Peace

Amid COVID, We Need Enhanced International Coordination to Build Peace

Thursday, July 23, 2020

By: Jonathan Papoulidis; Corinne Graff; Tyler Beckelman

As the humanitarian and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, so does the risk that this crisis will fuel new conflicts around the world, while stymying prospects for resolving ongoing ones. The global health crisis is triggering devastating levels of food insecurity and unemployment, especially in the world’s most fragile states, where the social contract between citizens and the state is severed and societies are fragmented and vulnerable to violence. These trends will almost certainly lead to a future spike in instability across these countries, unless concerted international action is taken.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health; Fragility & Resilience

Putting the Global Fragility Act into Action Can Save Money and Lives

Putting the Global Fragility Act into Action Can Save Money and Lives

Thursday, July 2, 2020

By: Corinne Graff; Elizabeth Hume

The U.S. government (USG) is preparing to unveil a new strategy over the coming months to tackle the underlying causes of fragility and conflict in vulnerable countries around the world. The strategy comes at an important time, just as the United States and other international donors seek to respond to rapidly increasing health, food, and other emergency needs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. It will be critical that in line with the new strategy, this aid does not inadvertently stoke new tensions.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

View All Publications