Senin, April 11, 2016

The relationship between religion and conflict is in the fact is a complex one. Religiously-motivated peace builders have played important roles in addressing many conflicts around the world. This aspect of religion and conflict will be discussed in this essay on religion and peace. This essay considers some of the means through which religion can be a source of conflict. There are some aspects of religion that make it susceptible to being a source of conflict. All religions have their accepted dogma, or articles of belief, that followers must accept without question. This can lead to inflexibility and intolerance in the face of other beliefs. After all, if it is the word of God, how can one compromise it?

At the same time, scripture and dogma are often vague and open to interpretation. Therefore, conflict can arise over which interpretation is the correct one, a conflict that ultimately cannot be solved because there is no arbiter. The winner generally is the interpretation that attracts the most followers. However, those followers must also be motivated to action. Although, almost invariably, the majority of any faith hold moderate views, they are often more complacent, whereas extremists are motivated to bring their own interpretation of God's will to fruition.

Religious extremists can be a catalyst of conflict escalation. They see radical measures as necessary to fulfilling God's wishes. However, fundamentalists of any religion tend to take a Manichean view of the world. If the world is a struggle between good and evil, it is hard to justify compromising with evil. Any sign of moderation can be decried as selling out, more importantly, of abandoning God's will.

Many religions also have varying strains of evangelism, which can cause conflict. Believers are called upon to spread the word of God and increase the numbers of the flock. For example, the effort to impose Christianity on people was an important part of the conflict surrounding European colonization. Similarly, a group may seek to deny other religions the opportunity to practice their faith. In part, this is out of a desire to minimize beliefs the dominant group feels to be inferior or dangerous. Suppression of Christianity in China and the Sudan are but two contemporary examples. In the case of China, it is not a conflict between religions, but rather the government views religion as a dangerous rival for citizens' loyalties. All of these instances derive from a lack of respect for other faiths.

Religious fundamentalists are primarily driven by displeasure with modernity and moderation. Religious nationalists can produce extremist sentiment. They tend to view their religious traditions as so closely tied to their nation or their land that any threat to one of these is a threat to one's existence. Therefore, religious nationalists respond to threats to the religion by seeking a political entity in which their faith is privileged at the expense of others. In these contexts, it is also likely that religious symbols will come to be used to forward ethnic or nationalist causes.

In virtually every heterogeneous society, religious difference serves as a source of potential conflict. Because individuals are often ignorant of other faiths, there is some potential tension but it does not necessarily mean conflict will result. Religion is not necessarily conflictual but, as with ethnicity or race, religion serves, as a way to distinguish one's self and one's group from the other. Often, the group with less power, be it political or economic, is more aware of the tension than the privileged. In a crisis, group members may see extremists as those that can produce what appear to be gains, at least in the short-term.

In such situations, group identities are even more firmly shaped in relation to the other group, thereby reinforcing the message of extremists that one's religion is threatened by another faith that is diametrically opposed. Often, historic grievances are recast as being the responsibility of the current enemy.

What is to be done?

In the eyes of many religion is inherently conflictual, but this is not necessarily so. Therefore, in part, the solution is to promote a heightened awareness of the positive peace building and reconciliatory role religion has played in many conflict situations. More generally, fighting ignorance can have many positive impacts. Interfaith dialogue would be beneficial at all levels of religious hierarchies and across all segments of religious communities. Where silence and misunderstanding are all too common, learning about other religions would be a powerful step forward. Being educated about other religions does not mean conversion but may facilitate understanding and respect for other faiths. Communicating in a spirit of humility and engaging in self-criticism would also be helpful (David Smock, Building Interreligious Trust in a Climate of Fear).

Peace-Building and Peace-Making

Religious organizations are a rich source of peace services. They can function as a powerful agent for social tolerance, for democratic pluralism, and for constructive conflict-management. They are peace-builders and peace-makers.


Religions contribute to peace-building by empowering the weak, by influencing the moral-political climate, by developing cooperation and providing humanitarian aid.

(1) Empowering people

In the last quarter of this century, religious actors have been a major force for social justice in the Third World and a movement for peace in the industrialised countries in the North.
People can also be empowered by being provided with theological support against injustice. In the Third World, many varieties of theology have been developed which are critical of structural violence. The best known are the Liberation theology in Latin America and the black theology in South Africa. These theologies advocate putting an end to suffering caused by physical, structural, psychological and cultural violence. The existence of a Christianity of the poor is a powerful social force, confronted with repression and exploitation. Hundreds of church workers, catechists, priests and bishops have undergone death threats, have been tortured or murdered while working on the abolishment of poverty and injustice (Lernoux 1982).

(2) Influencing the moral-political climate

The major variable, which religious organizations can influence, is the moral-political climate. The moral-political climate at the international or domestic level can be defined in terms of the perceived moral-political qualities of the environment in which the conflicting parties operate. Some climates tend to be destructive, but others enhance conditions for constructive conflict-management. Religious organizations influence the moral-political climate by justifying war or peace, tolerance or intolerance, conservatism or progressivism.



Several factors empower religions and religious organizations with a great and under-utilized potential for constructive conflict management.

First, more than two thirds of the world population belongs to a religion. In 1992, 29.2% of the religious constituency was Christian; 17.9% Muslim; 13% Hindu; 5.7% Buddhist/Shintoist; 0.7% Confucianism/Taoist. Together, all those religious organizations have a huge infrastructure with a communication network reaching to all corners of the world. They have a great responsibility and leadership is expected from them.

Second, religious organizations have the capacity to mobilize people and to cultivate attitudes of forgiveness, conciliation. They can do a great deal to prevent dehumanization. They have the capacity to motivate and mobilize people for a more peaceful world. Religious and humanitarian values are one of the main roots of voluntarism in all countries: doing something for someone else without expecting to be paid for it. They are problem-solvers. They do not seek conflict (Hoekendijk, 1990).

Third, religious organizations can rely on a set of soft power sources to influence the peace process. Raven and Rubin (1983) developed a useful taxonomy for understanding the different bases of power. It asserts that six different sources of power exist for influencing another's behavior: reward, coercion, expertise, legitimacy, reference, and information.

Reward power is used when the influencer offers some positive benefits (of a tangible or intangible nature) in exchange for compliance. If reward power relies on the use of promises, coercive power relies on the language of threat. Expert power relies for its effectiveness on the influencers' ability to create the impression of being in possession of information or expertise that justifies a particular request. Legitimate power requires the influencer to persuade others on the basis of having the right to make a request. Referent power builds on the relationships that exist between the influencer and recipient. The influencer counts on the fact that the recipient, in some ways, values his or her relationship with the source of influence. Finally, informational power works because of the content of the information conveyed.

To mediate, religious organizations can rely on several sources of power. There could be the referent power that stems from the mediation position of a large and influential religious family. Closely related to this could be legitimate power or the claim to moral rectitude, the right to assert its views about the appropriateness and acceptability of behaviour. Religious leaders could refer to their 'spiritual power' and speak in the name of God. Also important could be the informational power derived through non-governmental channels; groups like the Quakers could use expertise power on the basis of their reputation of fine mediators.

Fourth, religious organizations could also use hard sources of power. Some religious organizations have reward power, not only in terms of promising economic aid, but, for example, by granting personal audiences.


Religion has a dual legacy in human history regarding peace and violence. Conflict resolution theory must examine more systematically the decision-making of religious actors and leaders in order for strategies of peacemaking to be effective in the relevant contexts. It is the argument here that the study of religion and conflict resolution will yield an important new field of inquiry. A series of topics need to be addressed, including the mixture of religious and pragmatic motivations in behavior, the struggle between intercommunal moral values and other traditional values that generate conflict, multipath dialogue and pluralism as conflict resolution strategies, the sociopolitical impact of religious leadership on conflict generation and resolution, the limited scope of religious ethics in regard to the rejection of nonbelievers and traditional out groups, and the promising role of interpretation of sacred tradition in generating peacemaking strategies.

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