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The Role of Religion in Peacebuilding

Transformative Peace would like to start by wishing, to all those that celebrate, a happy and blessed Ramadan. May this holy month be a source of comfort and solace.


At Transformative Peace, our work over the last several years has shown us that religion can play a positive role in both preventing and resolving conflict and in building transformative peace. Credible religious actors often possess qualities that make them uniquely qualified to engage in peacebuilding efforts, such as trusted relationships with local communities that are rooted in a sense of moral understanding, responsibility, and justice, as well as the perception of being driven by the common good rather than by self-interest. Virtually all faith traditions offer universal values such as empathy, nonviolence, human dignity, and social justice, as well as a heritage of religiously-led mediation and conflict transformation practice. These rich traditions are important tools that can be used to legitimize peacebuilding efforts and mobilize communities of faith.

In 2021, global levels of governmental restrictions on Freedom of Religious Belief (FoRB) are at an all-time high, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated tensions among religious communities around the world and fuled discrimination and violence against religious minorities. Now more than ever, it is critical to understand how religious frameworks can be harnessed as a positive force for transformation to guarantee a more peaceful future.

An Islamic Framework for Conflict Transformation: A Case Study

Despite a rich tradition of peacebuilding in the majority of global religions, faith-based mediation and conflict transformation efforts are still often sidelined or siloed from secular efforts led by government and civil society. With over 84% of the global population identifying with a religious group, there is a crucial need to deploy peacebuilding tools that are part of local religious heritages, in genuine partnership with credible religious actors. When communities feel a strong sense of moral identification with peacebuilding principles, they are more likely to adhere to the outcomes of peace processes.

The Islamic faith tradition offers a number of foundational pillars for the resolution of conflict among Muslim communities and between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam emphasizes core values such as respect for the

the need for inclusive engagement of others as part of active involvement in ones’ faith, and consultation and dialogue as part of the strive for social justice. Peace in Islam is defined as a collective responsibility where community’s well being is heavily emphasized. At the same time, the Quran prescribes sulh, or compromise, as a way of peacefully ending disputes, and offers tahkim (arbitration) as an alternative if a mutual agreement cannot be reached through compromise. Wasata (mediation) and Wakalah (representation) are also recognized by the Quran as legitimate forms of conflict resolution through intermediary agents. Likewise, in the Quranic verse, God orders Muslims to accept peace if their enemy is inclined to it. “But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (Also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is the one that hears and knows (All things). Should they intend to deceive thee- verily Allah suffices thee.” (Quran 8, 61-62). On the ground, many Muslim peacebuilders are using these principles to resolve disputes among community members and in interfaith efforts. Awareness of the rich heritage of conflict transformation principles within Islam is still limited, and perceived power dynamics between local peacebuilding efforts and those of external actors. Genuine partnerships with local, credible religious actors are needed to bridge these gaps and build sustainable peace.


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