Melissa Nozell is a program officer for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Prior to joining USIP in August 2014, Melissa spent seven months in Amman, Jordan, volunteering with several organizations, including NuDay Syria and Mercy Corps, to help Syrian refugees through humanitarian aid efforts and mediation.

She has experience conducting research on religious trends in the U.S. and Middle East through the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, where she focused on Arab Christian-Muslim relations and faith-based diplomacy, and the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, where she updated and composed reports for the online edition of On Common Ground: World Religions in America. She also worked as an educator in Abu Dhabi.

Her interest areas include the implications of religious identity in pluralistic societies, and the ways in which religion can be used as a tool through which to teach human rights in conflict-prevention and reconciliatory capacities, particularly in the Middle East.

Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Asian Studies from Colgate University, and a master of theological studies from Harvard University.

Publications By Melissa

To Defend Religious Freedom, Try Peacebuilders’ Strategies

To Defend Religious Freedom, Try Peacebuilders’ Strategies

Monday, September 30, 2019

By: Melissa Nozell

News headlines in recent months report attacks on places of worship in lands as disparate as Northern Ireland, Syria and Ethiopia. Governments and civil society organizations have expressed rising concern over violence and government restrictions against religion—a concern that was visible in July when nearly 1,000 people gathered at a State Department conference to advance religious freedom. At that conference, some discussions offered a useful idea: that activists and governments might better protect religious freedom by borrowing tactics from specialists in conflict resolution.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion

Pope Francis in the Cradle of Islam: What Might It Bring?

Pope Francis in the Cradle of Islam: What Might It Bring?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Melissa Nozell

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.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion

Meeting the Global Threat to Freedom of Religion

Meeting the Global Threat to Freedom of Religion

Thursday, August 2, 2018

By: Susan Hayward ; Melissa Nozell

The first-ever ‘Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom’ demonstrated U.S. commitment to protect those of all faiths and none from persecution. For nearly three decades, USIP has supported religious peacebuilders who work courageously to advocate for the political and social inclusion of those from all faiths, including in places like Iraq, Nigeria, Burma, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Religion

Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism

Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

By: Peter Mandaville; Melissa Nozell

By more fully understanding the role of religion in violent extremism and adopting a broad-based and inclusive approach to engaging religious actors, policymakers and practitioners can better advance countering violent extremism objectives. In this report, a former senior policy adviser and a USIP senior specialist explore the nexus of religion and violent extremism.

Type: Special Report

Religion; Violent Extremism

Implementing UNSCR 2250

Implementing UNSCR 2250

Friday, June 16, 2017

By: Aubrey Cox; Melissa Nozell; Imrana Alhaji Buba

In the context of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security, this report examines collaborations between youth and religious leaders in conflict-affected states. Using case studies, surveys, and interviews, it highlights the gaps, challenges, and opportunities for how religious actors and youth can and do partner effectively in the face of violent conflict.

Type: Special Report

Youth; Religion; Global Policy

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