Religion in the Aftermath of Conflict

22 January 2008, 13:30 - 15:30

CRASSH

Lucia Faltin (Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations/Faculty of Divinity)
Dr Jose Liht (Psychology and Religion Research Group/Faculty of Divinity)
Britt Baille (Department of Archaeology)

Today’s seminar has five aims: to provide an overview of some of the religious issues in post conflict scenarios: to highlight the work that the Post-Conflict and Religion sub-group seminars have covered; to present two specific case studies; to raise awareness of religious issues in order to stimulate discussion, and, finally, to contemplate how the ideas presented today could be integrated into the June colloquium.

 Thematic brief 
How can we deal with the paradoxical contributions of religion to the social order (or disorder) in post-conflict/crisis settings? Historically, religion has been seen as a factor that both fuels the outbreak of conflicts and prolongs them. Religion has played many roles in conflict; encouraging communal strife among different faith communities, helping to repress minority groups, and/or motivating strife between the government and religious groups over control of the state. Furthermore, in post-conflict scenarios, religious peace-makers are often criticized for lacking realism or relevance. However, in recent years there has been increasing recognition that religions and religious actors can play other more positive roles in conflict/post-conflict situations, as humanitarian aid distributors or as ‘successful’ peace
workers/mediators. Yet, more often than not, religious dynamics and their influence on situations of post-conflict/crisis continue to be overlooked, sidelined, treated with benign disinterest or misunderstood within policy contexts. Miscalculating religion’s role in post-conflict scenarios can have disastrous repercussions, even in conflicts which didn’t originally centre around religious clashes. This begs the question, how should intervention and reconstruction take place in societies where religion plays a critical role and how do we negotiate any negative effects that it may have?
 
Religious institutions often survive conflicts and crises even when other forms of social and government structures fall apart. Churches, mosques, religious communities and religious charities are often amongst the first groups to begin picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a war or a crisis. Religious groups and leaders in specific instances can be effective track-two diplomats, thanks to their credibility with local communities, their unique leverage for promoting reconciliation among conflicting parties, their local and international networks, and their long-term commitment to the society of which they are a part. In other situations they can act as hurdles to overcome in the peace process, raising a plethora of ethical and political problems. Many governmental or secular actors are therefore reluctant to take up
the issue of religion or work with religious groups, because religion is considered to be either ‘too complicated’ or ‘too sensitive’. This attitude can result in counter-productive policies, and missed opportunities. Currently, much of the literature on religion in post-conflict is either very pro- or anti- religion. Yet, there is scope for researchers and practitioners to move beyond a bad religion/good religion hermeneutic and seek a more detached analysis of
the roles played by religion and religious actors in the aftermath of conflict.
 

Religion in Post-Conflict: an overview of main themes and the work of the Post-Conflict and Religion sub-group

Lucia Faltin will give an introduction to the work that the Post-Conflict and Religion sub-group has been involved in. She will highlight the question of why religion tends to be marginalized or entirely avoided in current post-conflict debate. Subsequently, she will explore some of the positive and negative ‘hats’ that religion is seen to have had in post-conflict situations. Finally, she will ponder on the differences between US and EU approaches to religion in post-conflict scenarios.

Dr. Jose Liht will discuss the methodology and literature on integrative complexity coding,  in regards to its potential to evaluate the quality of post-conflict reconciliation. He will present a preliminary study design that examines several conflicts in which some kind of closure has happened, ranging from successful peace to cold war,  in order to test the technique's usefulness and elicit feedback from peers.

Britt Baillie will seek to highlight some of the ways that religion is ‘dealt with’ in post-conflict scenarios, by using the case-study of religious sites in Cambodia and Croatia. Heritage management and conservation have traditionally worked with safely ‘dead’ heritage of civilizations which have long since disappeared. These disciplines are less well equipped however, to deal with living religious sites and their inhabitants and users. Religious heritage was specifically targeted during the civil wars in the Former Yugoslavia and Cambodia. In the aftermath of these hostilities, international and national agencies have been struggling to manage this war-damaged heritage. The conflict between secular ideas of conservation, development, tourism, urban planning and the needs of religious groups in these historic sites has been brought into fine relief by this process. The way that these religious sites have been handled by secular government agents has weakened the development and reconstruction process in both locations. This paper will explore how and why this is the case and suggests how it can be avoided in future.

Discussion questions

•    How does one contain the damage done by organized religions in the context of war?

•    When does engagement by religious groups crystallize ethno-religious differences? When does it help to bridge the divide between ethno-religious groups?

•    What are the effects of introducing a non-‘native’ religious ‘peace building’ groups into a post-conflict/crisis situation who are more concerned with proselytizing than solving local problems?

•    How can inter-faith peace building work between religious communities which are more concerned with their spiritual particularities than with resolving common political or economical problems?

•    What are critical gaps in the current approach(es) to religion in the aftermath of conflict?

•    What are the costs of overlooking religions’ role in post-conflict settings?

•    Why is religion marginalized as a peripheral humanitarian or cultural issue in post-conflict scenarios?

•    What attitudes shape governmental, NGO, religious organizations attitudes towards religion and conflict and how do these attitudes differ?

•    Can initiatives with a secular analysis or outreach respond effectively to actors with a theologically based worldview?

 


Part of the Post-Conflict & Post-Crisis Research Colloquium

Over the next two academic years (2007-2009) the Post-Conflict and Post-Crisis Research Colloquium will seek to establish a number of regularly scheduled and publicised events, ranging from a visiting speaker programme to the extension of its smaller working subgroups (e.g. Religion and Conflict, and the Politics of Space). The group's activities over the first year (2007-2008) will culminate in a major two-day interdisciplinary conference on post-conflict and post-crisis reconstruction. 

All welcome. No registration required.