With 84 percent of people worldwide identifying with a religion, faith 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.

USIP’S Work

For more than 25 years, the U.S. Institute of Peace has been at the forefront of efforts to better understand religion in peacebuilding, harnessing the contributions of people of faith and religious leaders, practices, ideas, and institutions to promote inclusive societies and build sustainable peace. The Institute helps policymakers engage effectively with religious actors through its research, advising, and training. USIP also works directly with religious individuals and institutions during violent conflict to strengthen their peacebuilding skills and promote religious coexistence. Recent work includes:

Repairing Ruptures Within and Across Religions

USIP works to promote tolerance and collaboration that bridges divides within and between religions. USIP’s interfaith and intra-faith work includes:

Colombia. The Institute helped establish the Ecumenical Women Peacebuilders Network, a nationally recognized group of Catholic and Protestant women church leaders who advocated locally for the 2016 peace accords. Now they help foster reconciliation as former combatants return home.

Iraq. USIP trained civil society facilitators in religious peacebuilding and supported them in implementing a series of local projects, including peace courses at sharia colleges and community discussions on religious violence and reconciliation.

Pakistan. USIP partnered with the Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation to organize dialogues across 20 university campuses about inter- and intra-religious violence and radicalization.

Sri Lanka. The Institute worked with the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation to form a coalition of 200 faith leaders, women and men, from Buddhism, Christianity Hinduism, , and Islam who mitigate local conflicts.

Researching Religion’s Influence and Shaping Policy

Through its on-the-ground research with local partners, USIP strengthens understanding of how religious ideas, practices, actors, and institutions influence both conflict and peace.

With its Initiative to Map the Religious Landscape in Conflict-Affected States, USIP has created a unique methodology for peace practitioners to track and analyze the impact of religion. Mapping has been completed or is underway in Libya, South Sudan, and Iraq. In addition to providing concrete data to help guide strategic engagement, such research helps policymakers determine the best approaches for establishing secure, sustainable peace.

Similarly, USIP’s Religion and CVE Initiative has explored the complex relationship between religion and violent extremist movements around the world. Convening policymakers and religious actors from diverse settings, this global series of symposia has resulted in policy recommendations for those seeking to partner with religious actors in efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Developing Practical Resources for Training and Educating

USIP has developed a series of action guides focused on religion and conflict analysis, mediation, reconciliation, and gender-inclusive religious peacebuilding in collaboration with the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Salam Institute of Peace and Justice.

The Institute also works with religious education centers to build knowledge, skills, and confidence in conflict prevention, mediation, and reconciliation. In Burma, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan, USIP has supported peace studies curricula that resonate with local cultural and religious ideas and practices, helping to ensure that the next generation of religious leaders are prepared to build peace.

Related Publications

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

How can Afghans make peace AND protect women? Meet Ayesha Aziz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

After nearly 40 years of war, Afghanistan and the international community are urgently seeking paths for a peace process. But amid the tentative efforts—a three-day ceasefire in June, the peace march across the country by hundreds of Afghans and talks by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—a somber question hangs for women and human rights advocates. How can Afghanistan make peace with the Taliban while protecting democracy and women’s rights?

Gender; Religion; Peace Processes

Russia’s War on Ukraine Roils the Orthodox Church

Russia’s War on Ukraine Roils the Orthodox Church

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

By: Charles North

Russia failed to anticipate that its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 would cost it one of its most powerful levers of influence over its neighbor: the formal authority of the Russian Orthodox Church over its Ukrainian counterpart. But it has done so, and that unintended consequence could lead to others: a decline in Russian influence within the Eastern Orthodox world, a deeper division in the Orthodox community—and even perhaps the largest schism in Christianity since 1054. The international community has a key role in determining how this unfolds and must act to ensure the worst scenarios don’t come to pass.

Religion

Susan Hayward on Advancing Religious Freedom

Susan Hayward on Advancing Religious Freedom

Thursday, August 2, 2018

By: Susan Hayward

Following last week’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State, Rev. Susan Hayward discusses the worldwide uptick in religious discrimination in recent years—which particularly impacts minority communities—and how religion shapes conflict and peace around the world.

Religion

USIP-Commissioned Research Among Iraqi Minority Communities

USIP-Commissioned Research Among Iraqi Minority Communities

Friday, June 29, 2018

USIP has produced five studies of minorities’ perceptions on reconciliation in the Nineveh province, including, Christian, Eyzidi (Yazidi), Sabean-Mandaean, Shabak and Turkomen communities. These assessments provide insights into conflict drivers and demands of these communities and include key findings, which have been shared with international and national stakeholders including the U.S. Government and the Government of Iraq.

Religion

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