Inter-religious Dialogue and Action

Fall 2016-Spring 2017

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

Inter-religious dialogue and peacebuilding are often seen, by religious and secular actors, as the natural antidote to religious violence or identity conflicts with a religious dimension.  Interreligious peacebuilding can also be indispensable in conflicts where religious differences are not at issue in the conflict, as with the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda.  The goals of interreligious peacebuilding depend on the nature of the conflict and one’s theory of change.  They range from (1) repairing and/or deepening relationships, (2) improving mutual understanding, (3) finding common ground on beliefs and issues, (4) promoting common action, and/or (4) encouraging complementary action for peace and justice.  In some cases, the most effective work of inter-religious peacebuilding is done alone within one’s own faith community.    

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Course materials

Module Materials

Learning Objectives

Learn about how the goals of inter-religious peacebuilding relate to one’s understanding of the religious dimension of the conflict and one’s theory of change.

Consider how inter-religious peacebuilding might be an effective response to extremist groups like ISIS or Boca Haram.

Evaluate, in conflicts with a religious dimension, what is more needed and effective: interreligious peacebuilding or intra-religious peacebuilding?  



Primary Resources

“Interfaith Dialogue: Assessing Theories of Change"


Reina Neufeldt, “Interfaith Dialogue: Assessing Theories of Change,” Peace & Change 36:3 (July 2011): 344–372.


This article by a former CRS peacebuilding specialist assesses the formal Christian-Muslim mechanism established to support peace processes in Mindanao in the southern Philippines in light of different theories of change.  (Available in your institution's digital library.)

“Building Bridges for Interfaith Dialogue”


Jaco Cilliers, “Building Bridges for Interfaith Dialogue,” in D. Smock, ed., Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding (United States Institute of Peace, 2002): 47-60.


Drawing on his practical peacebuilding experience as the justice and peacebuilding senior advisor for Catholic Relief Services, Cilliers suggests that effective dialogue for peace must begin from within one’s tradition and must incorporate justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and truth. (Available at your institution's library.)

“The Philippines: Religious Conflict Resolution on Mindanao”


“The Philippines: Religious Conflict Resolution on Mindanao”, part of the Religion and Conflict Case Study Series (Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, 2013) (17 pp)


After providing a brief overview of the conflict, this brief examines the efforts of Catholic Relief Services to train the Filipino military in peacebuilding and the engagement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference in the peace process.  


“The Philippines: The Mindanao Bishops-Ulama Conference”


Brenda Fitzpatrick, “The Philippines: The Mindanao Bishops-Ulama Conference,” in M. Rogers, T. Bamat, J. Ideh, eds, Pursuing Just Peace: An Overview and Case Studies for Faith-Based Peacebuilders (Catholic Relief Services, 2008): 117-132.


This case study looks at a formal effort of Christian leaders and Muslum ulama (Islamic religious scholars) to contribute to formal and informal peace processes in Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.  This chapter describes the nature of the religious leaders’ interventions, the implicit theories of change underlying these interventions, the results, and the challenges and limitations involved.  


“Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: Interreligious Dialogue and Catholic Spirituality”


Peter Phan, “Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: Interreligious Dialogue and Catholic Spirituality,” in R. Schreiter, S. Appleby, G. Powers, eds, Peacebuilding: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Praxis (Orbis Books, 2010):  332-365.


This chapter, geared more for theology classes, provides an overview of a Catholic theology of interreligious dialogue, primarily focused on the writings of St. John Paul II.  It then examines how this teaching has been put into practice by the Catholic Church in Asia in the service of peace and justice, focusing especially on the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.  The final section draws some general conclusions on the role of interreligious dialogue in peacebuilding. 


“The Miracles of Transformation through Inter-faith Dialogue: Are you a True Believer?”


Mohammed Abu Nimer, “The Miracles of Transformation through Inter-faith Dialogue: Are you a True Believer?” in D. Smock, ed., Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding (United States Institute of Peace, 2002): 15-32.


Nimer explains why an interfaith approach to peacebuilding is important, proposes seven principles for effective interfaith dialogue, and discusses the challenges involved in the four phases of dialogue.  (Available at your institution's library.)

Interreligious Action

Building peace among people divided by religion involves programs that invite people to connect through dialogue and action.  Forging a Path to Interreligious Action for Peace describes several efforts that CRS has used in Bosnia-Herzegovina with community members, government officials, and religious leaders.  Author:  USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.  Published: June 27, 2017.


In ‘Interreligious Action as a Driver for Social Cohesion and Development’ professor Atalia Omer explains the interreligious action (IRA) paradigm.  Specifically, “(r)ather than limiting the scope of ‘religion’ in peacebuilding, IRA expands it by shifting the preoccupation from deadly violence toward sociocultural and structural concerns, opening up synergies with development foci on education, legal reform, food insecurity, and women’s empowerment.”  Editors: Tom Bamat, Nell Bolton, Myla Leguro, and Atalia Omer.  Source: Interreligious Action for Peace: Studies in Muslim and Christian Cooperation.  Published: March 2017.  112 pages.  pp 1 -20.

Secondary Resources

1) Fred Strasser, “Reconciliation as the Road to Durable Peace:  The World’s Cultures See Disparate Paths to Pulling Up the Roots of Conflict” in The Olive Branch (Thursday, September 24, 2015)

According to Fred Strasser, what complicates peacebuilding is “a reality that human cultures have no agreed definition of reconciliation. …  Speaking at a forum on the United Nations-declared International Day of Peace, the four scholars drew on their experience as researchers and facilitators to explore obstacles and opportunities for reconciliation in conflict-wracked areas including Iraq, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland.”

2) David R. Smock, ed.  “Religious Contributions to Peacemaking: When Religion Brings Peace, Not War: Introduction” in Peaceworks No. 55 (January 1, 2006)

3a)  Viola Gienger, “In MENA Region’s Turmoil, USIP Dialogues Confront Tensions, Part 1: Stepping Into the Breach: Facilitators Guide Antagonists to Nonviolent Solutions” in Stepping into the Breach (March 15, 2016)

3b) Viola Gienger, “Dialogue Facilitators Reach for Tradition to Heal Modern Rifts, Part 2: Stepping Into the Breach: Facilitators Guide Antagonists to Nonviolent Solutions” in Stepping into the Breach (March 22, 2016)

3c) Viola Gienger, “Dialogue Leaders Push Past Traumas of War, Determined to Grasp for Peace, Part 3: Stepping Into the Breach: Facilitators Guide Adversaries to Nonviolent Solutions” in Stepping into the Breach (April 5, 2016)

4) Daniel Steele, A Manual to Facilitate Conversations on Religious Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (United States Institute for Peace, August 3, 2011) (74 pp)

USIP has found the documentary film "The Imam and the Pastor" useful as a resource for workshops and training programs exploring themes of religious peacebuilding and inter-group reconciliation. As such, USIP commissioned religion and peacebuilding specialist David Steele to produce a facilitator’s manual so that others might use this documentary, and the follow-up documentary" An African Answer," in their own training and workshops. This manual is available for download free-of-charge here.

5)  Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, presented a speech at a Conference on Catholic Peacebuilding entitled "How can the Church outside the Great Lakes region strengthen the capacity of the Church here to engage in peacebuilding?"

6) On July 22, 2014, Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., Archbishop of Louisville, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a “ Letter to US Bishops from Archbishop Kurtz Urging Solidarity ... to the Secretary of State.“  In it, he highlights Catholic Peacebuilding and sought to arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation

7) The Harvest Of Justice Is Sown In Peace is a Reflection of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Tenth Anniversary of The Challenge of Peace, November 17, 1993.

8) Mark M. Rogers, Evaluation Facilitor.  How Effective Were We in Strengthening Peacebuilding Capacity between Muslims and Christians in Africa? Final Evaluation of CIRCA* Project.  (Catholic Relief Services, October 2017)  This report evaluates CRS' CIRCA project, which aimed to improve relations between Muslim and Christian communities in Egypt, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.  Access Full Report (53 pages) and Summary (6 pages)                *CIRCA stands for Capacity for Interreligious Community Action

9) The Ties That Bind: Building Social Cohesion in Divided Communities. (Catholic Relief Services, 2017) This guide was born from a need to share learning from our experience in Central African Republic (CAR) from 2013–2015. During this turbulent period, CAR experienced unprecedented violence and brutality between the Seleka (Alliance) and the Anti-Balaka (Anti-Machete) militias. At the invitation of Muslim and Christian religious leaders, CRS trained more than 1,000 government, civil society, and private sector leaders in social cohesion principles and techniques, and equipped them with tools they could use in their workplaces and communities. This guide innovatively combines the 4Ds of Appreciative Inquiry ("Discover, Dream, Design and Deliver") with CRS’ 3Bs peacebuilding methodology ("Binding, Bonding and Bridging"). The result is a powerful approach for use within a people-to-people peacebuilding framework. Donors, host countries, and implementing partners who want to strengthen vertical and horizontal social cohesion, especially in fragile states, will profit from this guide. Each module offers detailed guidance on objectives, timing, steps, tools and notes for the trainer. English version (77 pages). French version (86 pages)




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