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.
In 2013, the United States adopted its first ever “National Strategy on Integrating Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement into U.S. Foreign Policy.” This White House strategy acknowledged the significant contributions of religious leaders and faith communities to human rights, global health and development, and conflict mitigation; and provided an interagency blueprint for integrating more robust engagement with religious actors across a broad range of foreign policy and national security issues. A decade later religious engagement remains a vital but underdeveloped capacity in U.S. foreign policy, and the strategy’s 10th anniversary offers a natural opportunity to revitalize strategic thinking and spur new action on this agenda.
Next week marks 25 years since Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement ended three decades of violent conflict between Catholics and Protestants. What can we learn from that breakthrough to strengthen peace efforts today? A Northern Irish peacebuilder argues a that a vital step in his homeland’s peace process placed civil society — and, critically, civil society’s religious participants — at its center in a way that other peace efforts (between Israelis and Palestinians, for example) have not. Northern Ireland continues to build reconciliation, a demonstration that, while religious factors sometimes fuel conflict, a fuller engagement of religious leaders and groups contributes powerfully to lasting peace.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ choice of Ghana this week as the place to launch her show of U.S. commitment to a new partnership with Africa can be no surprise. Ghana is one of Africa’s more established democracies and is at the center of the coastal West Africa region that the United States has targeted for focused efforts to prevent instability and the spread of extremism that is driving insurgencies in the neighboring Sahel region. As Ghana confronts that threat, notably in its vulnerable north, its community and civil society groups form an essential resource that partners should support.
USIP’s Religion, Peace and Conflict Country Profiles (RPACCs) are concise analytic overviews of the religious landscape in countries at risk of, currently experiencing or recovering from violent conflict. RPACCs are intended to be used primarily by policymakers and practitioners looking to develop rapid familiarity with the nature and status of religion in a given country of interest as well as to understand how religion intersects with conflict and peace dynamics. The RPACC series is an outgrowth of USIP’s previous work on Religious Landscape Mapping in Conflict-Affected States.
In support of the Evidence Act and as part of the U.S. national security architecture, USIP is carrying out its own learning agenda. Peacebuilding has long been viewed as too messy and complex for evidence-based approaches — but USIP’s mix of research and practice belies that assumption.
Peacebuilders and policymakers are engaged and involved with religious actors in almost every aspect of their work. Even where religion is not an explicit presence, it is a cultural undercurrent that is immutably present — and one that is often vastly underestimated by policymakers. As USIP’s three decades of experience working at the intersection of religion, peace and conflict has shown, the teachings of various religious traditions, the lived experience of those who practice them and the knowledge of how to engage with people of faith are all essential elements of effective peacebuilding.