Religion and Peacebuilding

Religion and Peacebuilding refers to the study of religion’s role in the development of peace.
Scholars generally accept that religion has been, at different points in history, both advantageous
and ruinous to the promotion of peace. However, there have been many approaches to explaining this variability.

Nathan C. Funk and Christina J. Woolner categorize these approaches into three models.

The first is “peace through religion alone”. This proposes to attain world peace through devotion to a given religion. Opponents claim that advocates generally want to attain peace through their particular religion only and have little tolerance of other ideologies.

The second model, a response to the first, is “peace without religion”. Critics claim that it is overly simplistic and fails to address other causes of conflict as well as the peace potential of religion. It is also said that this model excludes the many contributions of religious people in the development of peace. Another critique claims that both approaches require bringing everyone into their own ideology.

The third and final approach is known as “peace with religion”. This approach focuses on the importance of coexistence and interfaith dialogue.  Gerrie ter Haar suggests that religion is neither inherently good nor bad for peace, and that its influence is undeniable. Peace with religion, then, emphasises promoting the common principles present in every major religion.

A major component of religion and peacebuilding is faith-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Douglas Johnston points out that faith-based NGOs offer two distinct advantages. The first is that since faith-based NGOs are very often locally based, they have immediate influence within that community. He argues that “it is important to promote indigenous ownership of conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives as early in the process as possible.” The second advantage Johnston presents is that faith-based NGOs carry moral authority that contributes to the receptivity of negotiations and policies for peace.