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.
Kazakhstan’s violent upheaval this month underscores that governments and international organizations need to more effectively help Central Asia’s 76 million people build responsive, effective governance across their five nations. Mass protests or communal violence also have struck Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in recent years. As the United States, allied governments and international institutions seek ways to promote nonviolent transitions toward more stable, democratic rule, new research suggests that they explore for partners in an often-ignored sector—Central Asia’s active and disparate Muslim civil society.
Ten months have passed since Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s elected government, and by now it’s apparent that arrests, executions, torture and financial pressures will not pacify a population unwilling to be ruled by generals. So, the coup’s leader, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, is seeking to recast himself through military-controlled media. Rather than an autocrat who overturned the popular will, he portrays himself as the next in a long line of just and honorable Buddhist warrior-kings, monarchs who protected Buddhism from public apathy and external threats. The military is hoping that a barrage of religious propaganda can accomplish what force and violence have not.
It’s been 40 years since the U.N. adopted a resolution to end persecution based on faith and defend religious minorities. USIP’s Knox Thames says decades later, “It’s a work in progress … While the situation is bleak, there is a global movement that is starting to build and trying to meet this challenge.”
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.