Civil society, the Church & peace processes

Fall 2016-Spring 2017:

Monday, August 1, 2016 to Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a growing appreciation of the critical role of civil society actors in people-to-people peacebuilding, and in directly and indirectly supporting formal and informal peace processes.    Increasingly, active engagement by civil society actors (Track 2 and Track 3 diplomacy) is considered an important factor in addressing the fact that half of peace settlements fail within five years.  In many countries embroiled in conflict, the Catholic Church is a leading civil society actor.  In South Sudan and Colombia, the churches often play an indirect role, organizing local, regional and national peace processes for civil society that complement official peace processes.   

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Course materials

Learning Objectives

Understand the role of religious and civil society actors, such as NGOs, civic associations, and tribal leaders in peace processes

Distinguish between the roles of Track 2 civil society actors and Track 1 actors (governments and leaders of armed groups) and what both sets of actors can bring to the table   

Evaluate the specific roles that Church and civil society actors should play in formal peace processes?  Should they have a seat at the negotiating table, provide input into the negotiations without a formal role, and/or advocate to influence the negotiations or in support of a peace agreement?   



Primary Resources

"The Long Journey Back to Humanity: Catholic Peacebuilding with Armed Actors"


John Paul Lederach, "Back to Humanity: Catholic Peacebuilding with Armed Actors,” in R. Schreiter, S. Appleby, G. Powers, eds, Peacebuilding: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Praxis (Orbis Books, 2010): 23-55.


Drawing on the peacebuilding experience of four Catholic peacebuilders in Colombia, northern Uganda, and the southern Philippines, this chapter by a leading practitioner-scholar of peacebuilding examines what is distinctive about Catholic approaches to engaging armed actors, both governments and rebels.  


"NGOs and Conflict Resolution"


Andrea Bartoli, “NGOs and Conflict Resolution,” in J. Bercovitch, V. Kremenyuk, I.W. Zarman, eds, The SAGE Handbook of Conflict Resolution (SAGE , 2001): 392-412.


This article explores one important role NGOs play in conflict resolution: direct mediation in peace processes.  It focuses on lessons learned from  the work of four NGOs:  the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic community in Rome best known for its role in the 1992 peace accord in Mozambique;  the Carter Center; the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue; and the Crisis Management Initiative.   

3. Tom Bamat on CRS Catholic peacebuilding on extractives, Sudan, University engagement


"Peacebuilding in Praxis: Lessons from Africa: CRS Peacebuilding in Sudan"


John Ashworth, Catholic Relief Services.  The video of John's talk begins at the opening and concludes at 21 minutes and 19 seconds.  His presentation was at Catholic University in April 2013 as part of the Pacem inTerris at 50 conference.

This conference was intended to be one of the principal commemorations of the Pacem in terris anniversary in the United States. The conference examined the ways in which Pacem in terris is a living document that remains fresh today. It also helped animate peacebuilding as a priority for the Catholic Church in the United States and focused attention on ways in which Catholic perspectives on peacebuilding can contribute to the wider debate on the responsibilities and opportunities for peacebuilding in U.S. foreign policy.


"John Katunga on CRS and Catholic peacebuilding in Sudan"


About 26 minutes in.


"One Nation from Every Tribe, Tongue and People"


John Ashworth & Maura Ryan, "’One Nation from Every Tribe, Tongue and People’: The Church and Strategic Peacebuilding in South Sudan,” Journal of Catholic Social Thought 10:1 (Winter 2013): 47-67.


This article by a leading peacebuilder and a theologian provides an overview and analysis of the efforts of the strategic peacebuilding work of the churches in South Sudan.  The article focuses on the churches’ role in using its spiritual, moral, political and ecclesial resources to build capacity and create space for two inter-communal peace processes, one in the late 1990s and the other in connection with the 2005 peace accord and its aftermath.  The article also considers the promise and challenges associated with the work of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum between 1995 and 2005.    

"And They Shall Make War No More"


Hector Fabio Henao Gaviria, “'And They Shall Make War No More’: Lessons about Peace-Making and Overcoming Conflict from Colombia,” New Blackfriars    96:1062 (March 2015): 177–191.


This paper describes the background to the last fifty years of violence in Columbia and identifies its causes in inequality, poverty and displacement. It then explores the ways in which the Catholic Church has been prominent in developing processes of peace-building that include “accompaniment” of the victims to include them in structures of citizen participation. It ends with theological and pastoral reflections on how this can be enabled practically in the Columbian context.

CRS Peacebuilding Interview Series - Jean Baptiste Talle


Learn how world class CRS Peacebuilders operate amidst challenging contexts to strengthen local communities’ capacity to heal and build relationships that lead foster peace.


Secondary Resources

CRS Video, "What is Peace?" (2 minutes and 13 seconds) from 2010. People across southern Sudan answer a simple and profound question: What is peace? While each has a unique answer, they all demonstrate eagerness to bring peace to Sudan.

Diana Chigas, “Track II (Citizen) Diplomacy,” Beyond Intractability, August 2003.  This article provides a helpful introduction to Track 1 ½ diplomacy (civil society actors working with official governmental processes), Track 2 (unofficial, informal activities by civil society actors to contribute to peace among conflicting groups), and Track 3 (unofficial, informal interventions for peace at the grassroots level).

CRS Video, "A Day in the Life of...Peacebuilding in the Holy Land".  This story presents Bayan and Netanel, two teenagers who share their inspirational stories about family and day to day life in Palestine and Israel.

CRS Video, "Congo: The Road to Recovery" (9 minutes and 59 seconds) from 2007.  Catholic Relief Services Programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo show how recovery and sustainability are now a reality for the Congolese people, though much more help is needed in this war torn region.

Peter van Tuijl, “Civil Society and the Power to Build Peaceful and Inclusive Societies,” in D. Cortright, M. Greenberg and L. Stone, eds, Civil Society, Peace and Power (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) 

CRS Video, "In Afghanistan, Community-based Education's Impact" (6 minutes and 55 seconds) from 2016. Since 2003, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has played a critical role in providing the children of Afghanistan access to education, and through this, the keys to greater freedom and sense of personal dignity. With financial support from private donors and the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom, CRS has been able to reach 24,000 children through community-based education programming.

Myla Leguro and Hyunjin Deborah Kwak, “Unlikely Partners for Conflict Transformation: Engaging the Military as Stakeholders for Peace in Mindanao,” in D. Cortright, M. Greenberg and L. Stone, eds, Civil Society, Peace and Power (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)