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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One after another, the women told their stories: the stigma, the repeated questioning by officials, the police anti-terrorism units following them. The women had become civic activists after losing their sons or husbands to the lure of violent extremism. They said they just wanted to make sure no one else suffered the same pain. But all the authorities could see was the relative of an extremist.
Wazhma needed a lawyer. She could no longer stand the beatings her husband was inflicting in a marriage that she had not wanted in the first place. As a third-year medical student, she knew she had rights and she wanted a divorce. Hers was one of 11 cases that the Women Defense Lawyers’ Advisory Council took to court in Afghanistan over the course of a year.
His career was rooted in college friendships with a Ghanaian and a Nigerian. It propelled him through posts in four foreign countries and a peace mediated in a local community in Africa that has held for more than 10 years. David Smock, USIP’s vice president for Governance, Law & Society and director of the Institute’s Religion and Peacebuilding Center, retires at the end of this week after more than 24 years at USIP, an organization that itself is only 30 years old.