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.

Nozell 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.

Nozell earned a bachelor’s in religion and Asian studies from Colgate University, and a master of theological studies from Harvard University.

Publications By Melissa

Four Lessons From Desmond Tutu’s Life and Legacy

Four Lessons From Desmond Tutu’s Life and Legacy

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

By: Palwasha L. Kakar;  Melissa Nozell;  Knox Thames

On December 26, the world lost a “moral compass,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, aged 90. Grounded in his Christian faith, his legacy as a peacebuilder through his anti-Apartheid activism and promotion of peace and justice is unparalleled. Tutu’s great influence on the field of peacebuilding, and his mark on peace and reconciliation efforts have rippled worldwide. Here are four attributes that Archbishop Tutu exemplified as a religious peacebuilder, radically inspiring people across the globe to fight injustice and advocate for peace. 

Type: Blog

Religion

Two Years After Easter Attacks, Sri Lanka’s Muslims Face Backlash

Two Years After Easter Attacks, Sri Lanka’s Muslims Face Backlash

Thursday, April 29, 2021

By: Jumaina Siddiqui;  Melissa Nozell

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.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

ReligionHuman Rights

How Military Chaplains Are Key Agents for Peace for the U.S. Armed Forces

How Military Chaplains Are Key Agents for Peace for the U.S. Armed Forces

Monday, April 5, 2021

By: Knox Thames;  Melissa Nozell

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.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion

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

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