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  • Author: Susan Hayward
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The field of religious peacebuilding has begun to move closer to the mainstream of conflict resolution practice and theory. The 2011 unrest in the Middle East and North Africa—the Arab Spring—reflects ongoing challenges and opportunities for the field. American and European nongovernmental organizations, agencies in the U.S. government, academia, and international organizations—sectors that once held religious issues at a distance or understood religion mainly as a driver of violence—increasingly engage religious communities and institutions as partners in creating peace. Meanwhile, religious organizations that have been involved in creating peace for decades, if not longer, increasingly have institutionalized and professionalized their work, suggesting ways that religious and secular organizations could coordinate their efforts more closely. The U.S. Institute of Peace's own programs on religion reflect the development of the wider field, having moved from research and analysis to on-the-ground programming to foster interfaith dialogue in the Balkans, Nigeria, Israel-Palestine, and Sudan. In addition, it has trained religious actors in conflict management in Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Colombia and developed peace curricula based on Islamic principles for religious and secular schools in Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere. As the U.S. field of religious peacebuilding continues to develop, challenges include integrating further with secular peacebuilding efforts, engaging women and youth and addressing their priorities, working more effectively with non-Abrahamic religious traditions, and improving evaluation, both to show how religious peacebuilding can reduce and resolve conflict and to strengthen the field's ability to do so.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Peace Studies, Religion, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Qamar ul Huda
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The recent desecration of the Koran and Islamic writings caused violent unrest in Afghanistan and raises concerns about essential training in culture and religion for U.S. personnel. Basic knowledge of religious actors and their roles in peacebuilding and conflict management is still barely factored in by policymakers and advisers to U.S. government. There needs more effort by local, regional, and international religious leaders to promote nonviolent and tolerant reactions even in midst of incendiary events. An assessment is needed to evaluate whether efforts at promoting inter-cultural sensitivity are working or not, and identifying processes for mitigating tensions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Religion, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Steven Simon
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: From a strategic perspective, Syria has gained some advantages and some disadvantages since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. President Bashar al - Asad, considered a callow leader five years ago, faced a testing period in 2003–06 and did more than merely survive. He withstood a threat of imminent regime change at the hands of the United States, and weathered heavy international fallout from the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and the summer war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, which Syria has long supported. Bashar has emerged a cagey geopolitical operator, able to manage a delicate strategic balance, and Syria is now stronger than it has been at any time in recent history. Yet Syria faces a number of internal challenges due to Iraq's instability. Primary among these is coping socially, economically, and politically with a huge influx of Iraqi refugees, and mitigating the effect that sectarian (Shia-Sunni) and ethnic (Arab-Kurd) conflict in Iraq has on the fragile status quo in Syria.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Regional Cooperation, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: David Smock
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: No major religion has been exempt from complicity in violent conflict. Yet we need to beware of an almost universal propensity to oversimplify the role that religion plays in international affairs. Religion is not usually the sole or even primary cause of conflict. With so much emphasis on religion as a source of conflict, the role of religion as a force in peacemaking is usually overlooked. Religious affiliation and conviction often motivates religious communities to advocate particular peace-related government policies. Religious communities also directly oppose repression and promote peace and reconciliation. Religious leaders and institutions can mediate in conflict situations, serve as a communication link between opposing sides, and provide training in peacemaking methodologies. This form of religious peacemaking garners less public attention but is growing in importance. Interfaith dialogue is another form of religious peacemaking. Rather than seeking to resolve a particular conflict, it aims to defuse interfaith tensions that may cause future conflict or derive from previous conflict. Interfaith dialogue is expanding even in places where interreligious tensions are highest. Not infrequently, the most contentious interfaith relationships can provide the context for the most meaningful and productive exchanges. Given religion's importance as both a source of international conflict and a resource for peacemaking, it is regrettable that the U.S. government is so ill equipped to handle religious issues and relate to religious actors. If the U.S. government is to insert itself into international conflicts or build deeper and more productive relationships with countries around the world, it needs to devise a better strategy to effectively and respectfully engage with the religious realm.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Ethan Beuno de Mesquita
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This report examines the correlates of individual-level support for terrorism in fourteen Muslim countries. I identify a variety of factors that are correlated with support for terrorism. These factors can be divided into a several categories: attitudes toward Islam, attitudes toward the United States, attitudes toward politics and economics in the home countries, and demographic factors.
  • Topic: Development, Peace Studies, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: George Adams
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in countless other hotspots around the world, religion has been a major factor in matters of war and peace. Since religion often plays a significant role in conflicts, it also needs to be one of the factors addressed in mediating conflicts. Yet, because the United States separates religion from political matters to a greater degree than many other areas of the world, Americans frequently have difficulty understanding the crucial role religion can play in conflict transformation.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Sumit Ganguly
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Bangladesh has generally been heralded as a stable, democratic Muslim state that has made great strides in economic and human development. Following the restoration of democracy in 1990, it carried out three largely free and fair general elections in 1991, 1996, and 2001. Since 1999, attacks by Islamist militants have been increasing. They have targeted opposition politicians, scholars, journalists, members of the judiciary, religious minorities, and members of the Islamic Ahmadiyya sect. Recent years have seen a deepening crisis in governance with continued politicization of civil society, deterioration of judicial independence, and diminishing rule of law and respect for human rights. Until very recently, the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia (backed by two Islamist parties) denied the existence of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh, dismissing these charges as “hostile propaganda,” designed to besmirch the country's reputation. Following a countryside terrorist attack in August 2005 and recent suicide bombings, the government has begun cracking down on selected individuals. Indian observers and policymakers are concerned about the activities of Bangladeshi Islamists. They accuse Dhaka of exacerbating the ongoing insurgencies in India's Northeast by turning a blind eye to growing illegal immigration. They also contend that Bangladesh is cooperating with Pakistan to target India. In light of these developments, questions persist about the government's dedication to respond decisively to Islamist terrorism, conduct free and fair elections in 2007, and address the deterioration in the rule of law and respect for human rights. Because of Bangladesh's regional importance and the implications of internal security developments, the United States has limited policy options to promote its regional goals and ensure democratic elections.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Human Welfare, Religion
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, United States
  • Author: Paul Wee
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Nigeria currently faces a three-pronged crisis involving Muslim-Christian relations, the Niger Delta region, and presidential term limits. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) held a public workshop in March 2006 for the purpose of assessing the situation in Nigeria and considering ways in which the international community might respond.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Religion
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Nigeria