Melissa Nozell is the program officer for religion and inclusive societies at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), where she leads initiatives to research and support the effective engagement of religious actors in conflict prevention and resolution.

Prior to joining USIP in 2014, Nozell lived in Amman, Jordan, where she volunteered to help Syrian refugees through humanitarian aid efforts and mediation with several organizations, including NuDay Syria and Mercy Corps. Nozell has led 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 authored reports for the online edition of On Common Ground: World Religions in America. She also worked as an educator in Abu Dhabi and has additionally lived for work or study in Italy and India.

At USIP Nozell oversees several key program initiatives in research and practice, including on interreligious and intergenerational dialogue, on religion and psychosocial support for displaced survivors of conflict, and on religion in formal peace processes. She also leads program training and resource development through course development with USIP’s Global Campus and in collaboration with U.S. military chaplains. Nozell’s geographic areas of interest and work are broad and cross-contextual, spanning South and Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

Melissa was a 2021-2022 Penn Kemble Forum Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and served as a KAICIID International Fellow in 2019. She earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and South Asian studies from Colgate University and a master’s in theological studies from Harvard University.

Publications By Melissa

How Religious Actors Can Help Address the Western Hemisphere’s Biggest Challenges

How Religious Actors Can Help Address the Western Hemisphere’s Biggest Challenges

Thursday, August 18, 2022

By: Andrés Martínez;  Melissa Nozell

On the sidelines of this year’s Summit of the Americas, the Interreligious Forum of the Americas brought together over 100 religious actors, faith-based organizations and governments to discuss how strategic engagement with religious and interreligious actors can help address the hemisphere’s most pertinent issues.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace ProcessesReligion

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

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