Religion and Conflict Resolution

R. Scott Appleby

John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Professor of History at University of Notre Dame

Interviewed by Micaela Cayton Garrido, 2005

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: I think in the West, in the United States, Canada and Europe in particular, there is more awareness of religion and its impact in the public sphere than there has ever been in the modern era. And that is quite a statement - this is partly due to global media, but it's also due to the rise of religious resurgence and movements with political aims, some of which are violent, some of which indulge in terrorism or, that is, the targeted use of violence in an oppositional mode. As a result, there is much more discussion of and awareness about it, writing about it and media coverage about religion and violence than there has been in a long time.

But, that doesn't mean there is a greater understanding simply because there's a lot of coverage. In fact, the coverage can often lead to conflating movements and ideas, to confusing them, to loose language and to accusations, and to polarization in which you're just calling names across the gulf between you and your opponent. That's one problem.

The other problem is the work of the peacebuilders - the ones in conflict resolution, nonviolence, human rights, who are drawing on religious traditions or working from religious perspectives, is not as well known, even given the media coverage and the greater educational awareness. There is much more concern with the religious advocacy of politics that one does not agree with.

Q: So you think there should be more awareness built towards the existence of these peacebuilders?

A: Very much so. There are efforts - my writing, Marc Gopin's writing, Rashied Omar here at the Institute, foundations like the Tannenbaum Foundation which gives annual awards to religious peacebuilders, the work of John Paul Lederach. There are people who are dedicated to getting the word out. But it's not the kind of story that the secular media gives as much attention to. They prefer the man-bites-dog headline, that is, they expect religion to be working for peace and justice, and they are not particularly interested unless there is some particularly dramatic turn to the story. So one thing you have to do with the media is show the heroism, and the drama and the intensity of the people in conflict settings who are working for peace.