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.
On May 12, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued the Biden administration’s first annual religious freedom report. It was accompanied by a strong speech, highlighting the importance of the issue and singling out countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and Nigeria, among others, for their particularly severe violations. The secretary also made a point to establish that the Biden administration’s approach emphasizes that the right to religious freedom is one component of an integrated human rights agenda. This stands in contrast to others who view religious freedom to be of unique importance and deserving of singular attention.
Two years after the Easter Sunday attacks that left 269 dead and injured more than 500, Sri Lanka’s Christian community is still waiting for justice while its Muslim community is reeling from the backlash that followed the bombings. Recent government restrictions targeting Muslims have exacerbated religious tensions in the South Asian nation and risk alienating large portions of the community.
Over the past few decades, U.S. military chaplains have increasingly played a key role in promoting peaceful resolutions in conflict environments. While their primary mission across the service branches is pastoral care — leading religious services, providing counsel and offering spiritual guidance, for example — military chaplains have also, at times, served as liaisons and bridge-builders with local religious leaders.
Since 2020, USIP’s programs on religion and inclusive societies and nonviolent action have been conducting research to better understand the role of religion in nonviolent action campaigns. Many of the most prominent activists and nonviolent movements in history have drawn on religion as they worked to build peace and advance justice. Historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi often come to mind. But religious leaders, beliefs, symbols and practices have featured just as prominently in more recent nonviolent campaigns, including the Arab Uprisings, the Spring Revolution in Myanmar and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement.
Since Spring 2021 The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is identifying best practices in psychosocial support to better facilitate collaboration and cooperation between religious actors and mental health professionals who provide services to conflict-affected communities — including trauma-affected displaced persons. The initiative will focus on Latin America as a pilot region, aiming to offer practical recommendations to relevant stakeholders.
Since 2018, USIP, InclusivePeace, and the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy have been conducting research that explores the roles that religious actors play in track 1 dialogues and official peace processes. While distinct cases demonstrate the impact—both real and potential—that religious actors and communities have on formal peace processes, little research or analysis exists to show whether, when, how, and to what extent religious actors should be engaged as part of these processes.