IAS Fellows' Seminar - Inclusive Peace Processes: Exploring the Opportunities and Challenges to Engaging with Religious Actors
Several peace processes in recent years have demonstrated the important influence of religious actors on official negotiations intended to reach political settlement to conflict. This is particularly the case for conflicts in which religious dynamics have shaped and are driving the course of conflict, or in which particular religious impasses—such as gender and minority rights—are being addressed as part of the negotiated solution. From the Central Africa Republic and South Sudan, to Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Philippines, to Colombia, religious actors assert that they have interests at stake in peace negotiations. If they are not engaged as part of the peace talks, religious actors may subsequently disrupt and spoil the peace process or negotiated agreement, such as in Sri Lanka and more recently in Colombia where some religious actors mobilized against the negotiated agreement with the FARC in 2016. They also may serve in support of peace processes by acting as inside mediators, shuttle diplomats, observers, and official facilitators. For some instances, from the ulema in Afghanistan negotiating behind the scenes between the government and the Taliban to advance a peace agreement, and Catholic and Protestant actors in Northern Ireland mediating between government and armed actors in the community to lay the foundation for the peace process, and then subsequently serving as witnesses and advocates to it, to religious actors reshaping the ethos of the peace process in South Sudan toward one grounded in human dignity, these lesser known examples of religious actor involvement in peace negotiations are significant. There is a clear need to better understand precisely when and how religious actors influence the course of official peace processes, both negatively and positively.
Despite the clear impact—both real and potential—that religious actors have on formal peace processes, there is little research or analysis to show when, whether, how, and to what extent religious actors, particularly women and youth of faith, should be engaged as part of these processes. As a means to responds to direct requests from international inter-governmental organizations to national level governments, religious actors, this seminar will present the preliminary key findings of on-going research being collaboratively conducted—by the IIS Martine Miller (Vice President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy) and the Religion and Inclusive Societies and the Inclusive Peace Processes and Reconciliation Departments at the United States Institute of Peace—on the role of and means to more effectively support the inclusion and collaboration of religious actors in formal peace processes, with a specific focus on Myanmar and Afghanistan. The findings of the research will contribute to guidance, capacity building, and collaborative advisory support to identified peace processes.
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