Given religion’s influence on conflict dynamics around the world, it is critical that practitioners and policymakers understand and partner with religious leaders and people of faith to build peace. For more than 25 years, the U.S. Institute of Peace has worked on the role of religion in violence and peace, advancing cutting-edge research and policy, and developing effective strategies to engage religious actors, institutions and ideas across traditions in support of peace. From enhancing the peacemaking capacities of individuals and faith-based organizations to fostering meaningful dialogue within and across faiths, USIP works with local partners to promote inclusive religious peacebuilding. Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on Religious Engagement in Peacebuilding.
With 84 percent of people worldwide identifying with a faith tradition, religion influences local, national, and international decision-making. Across the globe, violent extremism often is couched in religious terms, and religious discrimination is on the rise. At the same time, people of faith and religious organizations frequently are on the frontlines of peace efforts, assisting communities affected by violence. Although religious considerations have been marginal to peace efforts historically, governments and peacebuilding organizations increasingly recognize the importance of religion.
Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, the country's religious actors have sought to play an active role in turning the tide from war and violence to peace and reconciliation. Drawing on interviews, focus groups, and consultations, this report maps the religious landscape of South Sudan and showcases the legitimate and influential religious actors and institutions, highlights challenges impeding their peace work, and provides recommendations for policymakers and practitioners to better engage with religious actors for peace.
Pope Francis’ recent sojourn in the Arabian Peninsula was a powerful symbolic advance for interfaith dialogue: the first visit by a Roman Catholic pontiff to the original homeland of the Islamic faith. Francis joined eminent Muslim, Jewish and other Christian clerics in an appeal for the communal coexistence so desperately needed by a world suffering violence and persecution across humanity’s religious divides. The visit’s moving imagery included Christians and Muslims together attending the first papal mass on the peninsula. Yet this powerful symbolism will have real impact only if it inspires us all to take concrete steps—notably by governments, educational institutions and faith-based organizations.
For almost a decade, the U.S. Institute of Peace and its Iraqi partners have supported ethnic and religious minority communities in Iraq as part of the Institute’s broader mission of helping the country strengthen communal and institutional resilience. Employing innovative approaches to peacebuilding, USIP seeks to empower minority groups including Christians, Faily Kurds, Kakayees, Sabean-Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Eyzidis (Yazidis) to solve inter-communal disputes, and to advocate at all levels of government for their rights, access to services, and security.
Diplomats and peace practitioners often cite lack of familiarity with the religious landscape as a barrier to their engagement of religious actors. In 2013, USIP launched an initiative to address this need by developing a methodology for systematically mapping and assessing the religious sector’s influence on conflict and peace dynamics in discrete conflict settings. These mappings, which have been done or are underway in Libya, South Sudan, Iraq and Burma, help illuminate recommendations for effective partnerships within the religious sector for peacebuilding.
The U.S. Institute of Peace and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have joined to strengthen the abilities of youth leaders working to build peace in the world’s most violent regions. USIP and the Dalai Lama hosted a dialogue in May 2016 with 28 such peacebuilders drawn from networks of the Institute and its partners in 13 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Many of these countries face the world’s deadliest wars, as well as campaigns by extremist groups to incite youth to violence. T...