This module will look at the role of religion in relation to conflict and radicalisation, peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Watch the video below to hear Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, explain the important link between religion and peacebuilding.
Why do people join Violent Movements?
Submit your answer in the exercise below to learn more.
#Violent movements SCORM package
The story of Hani
Click through the exercise below to read an example of an individual path in a devastating and conflict-affected situation.
#The Hani story SCORM package
Prevention of Radicalisation and Conflict
The work to prevent radicalisation and conflict is complex. Hani, as an individual, is not a representative of all individuals and communities vulnerable to violence. He is an example that shows that ideology is not the only motivation and also that fragile circumstances limit choices.
So what strategies can be used for preventing radicalisation and conflict in development programming?
Inclusive religious education
Inclusive religious education limits the ability of radical groups to co-opt religious language in vulnerable communities. Think of inclusive religious education of young religious leaders, of school teachers, and of women, for example. Women play a significant role in educating children and local communities and should therefore be included in religious education programmes as much as possible. Think also about religious education for journalists, who are in the position to amplify exclusive or inclusive faith language.
Peace programming with local faith leaders
It is crucial to identify and include in peace programming those faith leaders who understand religion from within, who are able to offer inclusive religious narratives as an alternative to exclusive narratives, and who have the authority to engage people in peace programs. If a programme plan ignores those faith leaders, it could fail. Likewise, it can fail if the 'right', (i.e. the inclusive) faith leaders are not identified. Co-developing action plans with local faith leaders or simply strengthening what they are already doing, increases effectiveness and resilience. Because local faith leaders are often trusted community leaders who can reach the hearts and minds of their congregants on a deeper level by using the language of faith, it is important to recognise that their work can involve risks, especially in areas with radical groups. Peace builders can be seen as betrayers of their own community.
Inter- and intra-faith partnerships
Many regions where development work takes place are heterogeneous in their religious landscape. There can be different religions or different traditions within a single religion. Religion is plural and development work is not just about shared understanding between secular and one faith-based perspective. It is important to avoid working with only one (often progressive, English speaking) religious group. Social cohesion and sustainable peace work will be strengthened with diverse inter- and intra-faith engagement. Especially where there are tensions between the different religious groups.
Partnerships and complementary roles
One of the goals all development and faith actors should share is the provision of desirable alternatives for communities vulnerable to radicalisation and conflict. Secular actors can often provide tools, resources, and expertise to development plans. In addition faith actors can provide moral and spiritual resilience and traditions to promote peace and reconciliation. Secular and faith actors can mutually support one another to create a stronger alternatives to radicalisation and conflict for those who are most likely to become involved.
Faith and Reconciliation
Two persons, one from Northern Ireland and one from New Zealand, tell about reconciliation and their religious motivation for working toward it.
Click on the video to hear Rev. Dr. Lesley Carroll tell about her church’s role and what her deepest motivation was in doing reconciliation work during the violent conflict between Roman-Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland (1969-1998).
Farid Ahmed, survivor of the terrorist attack in Christchurch on 15 March 2019, whose wife was killed, spoke at the National Remembrance Service. In his speech he shares his religious motivation for reconciliation
"People ask me, why did you forgive someone who has killed your beloved wife? The first point is, I have a faith, I believe in Allah, and Allah says if we forgive one another, he loves me, he loves us. In the holy Qur’an Allah says, “those who control their anger, and pardon their fellow human, Allah loves those who are good doers,” so I forgive and Muslims forgive, because they are taught by the Qur’an that if they forgive then Allah will love them. I will give one more reason: I follow one prophet like all other messengers of god, of Allah, that he is titled Muhammad, a mercy for all creation. Allah said “Oh my messenger, I have sent you as a mercy for the world”, so without forgiveness, without showing mercy, I cannot be a true follower of him."
"I don’t agree with what he has done, I don’t support what he has done, probably he has misunderstood the whole thing, probably he had gone through suffering in his life, some traumatic thing has happened, and he could not process his suffering in the right way. I don’t support his action but I cannot deny he is my human brother. Each human being is my brother or sister. This is what Allah taught. I cannot hate him. I cannot hate anyone."
Public Response to violence by Religious Leaders
After the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during the Friday prayers on 15 March 2019, terrorists attacked three churches and three hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Day, 21 April 2019. Religious leaders responded quickly with a public statement in order to prevent more violence, hatred and division.
The public statement came from the Congress of Religions in Sri Lanka, signed by Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu leaders. It says, in part
"Immaterial of which background the terrorists responsible for the violence are from, it is clear that we will not allow ourselves to be divided. To do so means that those terrorists will have won and to suggest that communities who share the same faith as the terrorists are to blame will also feed into the narrative."
"The Congress calls on everyone to observe, Saturday 27th April. as a day of remembrance, prayer, meditation and reflection, in solidarity with all people and communities affected."
Click on the video to hear Dr. Agnes Abuom explain the role of the church and church networks in the fragile state of South Sudan.
Please take a moment to think about peace work in your own organisation. To what extent are local faith actors directly involved in peace programming? Do you see religion as a driver of conflict, a driver of peace, or both? Will the guidelines for preventing radicalisation and conflict help you?