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.
From Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s influence in the Iraqi elections to the involvement of religious actors in South Sudan’s peace process, the role of religion in conflict zones continues to dominate headlines. Please join field researchers and U.S. Institute of Peace experts on June 26, as they present an approach for mapping the role of religious actors and institutions to better understand their legitimacy and influence in contributing to peace and conflict, exploring findings from three recent mappings from Libya, South Sudan, and Iraq based on work from the field.
For a world in which more than 80 percent of people identify themselves as religious, the role of religious leaders, ideas, and institutions is critical to countering the many strains of violent extremism. On January 17 USIP held a discussion of the latest trends in policy and practice around the intersection of religion and its role in preventing and countering violent extremism.
On November 8, USIP and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide held a discussion with representatives of South Sudan’s civil society.
On August 1, USIP held an examination of the work required to protect and include minorities, and the roles that can be played by Iraq’s national government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the United States.
Most of the world’s most violent conflicts occur in countries with burgeoning populations of young people. Often these youth are the most vulnerable to the ravages of war. At the same time, more than 80 percent of people globally identify as religious, and their leaders and representatives often work on the front lines to prevent and reduce violent conflict. Yet both groups too often are excluded from formal peace efforts. On August 1, authors of a new U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report held a webcast conversation on how these two groups are working together and ways they can contribute even more to the cause of peace.
In Sri Lanka, Buddhist ideological extremism fuels negative attitudes about minority ethnic and religious groups. On November 28, U.S. Institute of Peace Jennings Randolph Fellow Rabia Chaudry and other experts discussed the findings of her research on these trends.
The near-daily litany of violence perpetrated by violent extremist groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram illustrates the dearth of understanding about how these militant organizations successfully tap into social discord to advance their campaigns. On Thursday, September 29, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the RESOLVE Network convened researchers from around the world to help set priorities for policy-relevant research to identify effective responses.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama campaigns not only for an end to violent conflict, but for the particular role of youth in achieving it. At a recent two-day dialogue in India with 28 youth peacebuilders convened by USIP, the Dalai Lama discussed ways to use universal spiritual values, such as compassion, in transforming violent conflicts into peaceful dialogue. On June 13, the Dalai Lama joined a few of these leaders at USIP to extend that discussion, which he and the youth participants say gives them new hope for their missions.
Recent years have seen a rise in the passage and enforcement of blasphemy laws in countries including Pakistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. On May 26, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the Senate Human Rights Caucus held a discussion co-sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace and Freedom House.