What is Peacebuilding and what is Catholic about it?

Fall 2016-Spring 2017

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

Age-old debates over just war and pacifism are well known.  What is less well known and understood is the Church’s role in conflict prevention, conflict mitigation and post-violence reconciliation.  From Colombia to South Sudan, the Catholic community, including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), is working with other religious actors and the wider civil society to promote peace amidst some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.   This session provides an overview of the Church’s role, considering it in the context of Catholic social teaching and a strategic approach to peacebuilding, with special attention to the peacebuilding work of CRS.   

Read more

Get started today: Sign in to access Resources

Course materials

Module Materials

Learning Objectives

Learn about the elements of a strategic approach to Catholic peacebuilding.

Understand how the Catholic community is particularly well placed to be strategic in its approach to peacebuilding.

Learn how CRS applies its approach to peacebuilding globally.



Primary Resources

"Strategic Peacebuilding: An Overview"


John Paul Lederach & R. Scott Appleby, “Strategic Peacebuilding: An Overview,” in D. Philpott  & G. Powers, eds, Strategies of Peace: Transforming Conflict in a Violent World (Oxford, 2010): 19-44.


This first chapter provides an overview of what the authors call, “strategic peacebuilding.”  Starting with a vision of “justpeace,” strategic peacebuilding goes beyond the conventional focus on state actors and military, political and economic factors.  It also considers a wider set of actors, such as religious and civil society groups, and factors, such as culture, at all levels and the relationships among them. 


"Catholic Peacebuilding"


Gerard Powers, “Catholic Peacebuilding,” in Sullivan & Pagnucco, eds, A Vision of Justice: Engaging Catholic Social Teaching on the College Campus (Liturgical Press, 2014): 113-137.


This chapter is written as an introduction to Catholic peacebuilding for college students.  Using contemporary examples from Iraq, South Sudan, northern Uganda, Colombia, and the Philippines, it examines the the Church’s peacebuilding assets:  (1) ritual, spirituality, theology, and ethics; (2) people power; and (3) institutional presence amidst all aspects of a conflict.  It concludes with a reflection on the special responsibility of American Catholics to embrace a vocation of peacebuilding.


"Peacebuilding and Catholicism: Affinities, Convergences, Possibilities"


R. Scott Appleby, “Peacebuilding and Catholicism: Affinities, Convergences, Possibilities,” in Schreiter, Appleby, Powers, eds, Peacebuilding: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Praxis (Orbis Books, 2010): 1-22.


This chapter provides a brief introduction to the wide range of actors and activities involved in Catholic peacebuilding.  It suggests, first, that a peacebuilding lens makes a difference in how we understand and address problems; and, second, that Catholicism brings a distinctive set of teachings, practices, sensibilities, and institutional resources to its peacebuilding work with other religious and secular actors.


"Catholic Relief Services: Catholic Peacebuilding in Practice"


William R. Headley, CSSp, and Reina C. Neufeldt, “Catholic Relief Services; Catholic Peacebuilding in Practice,” in Schreiter, Appleby, Powers, eds, Peacebuilding: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Praxis (Orbis Books, 2010): 125-154.


This chapter describes how CRS “is among a unique subset of agencies that has deliberately approached peacebuilding from a Catholic perspective, employing concepts from Catholic social teaching such as integral human development, human rights, and reconciliation.   


"CRS Peacebuilding Overview"


Tom Bamat, Technical Advisor at CRS, spends 20 minutes discussing the agency’s work at the grassroots level in conflict-affected areas to prevent violence, mitigate its effects, and reintegrate impacted populations.  He describes the scope of CRS’s stand alone and integrative work - focused on youth, gender, civic engagement, interfaith and extractives, as well as human rights and trafficking. He cites programs in Arroya, Peru and Darfur, Sudan.  


“Compassionate Presence: Faith-based Peacebuilding in the Face of Violence”


John Paul Lederach, “Compassionate Presence: Faith-based Peacebuilding in the Face of Violence,” Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego, February 16, 2012.



“The Future of Catholic Peacebuilding”


“The Future of Catholic Peacebuilding,” including interviews with Scott Appleby , Fr. Emmanuel Ntakarutimana, and Jerry Powers for a conference of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network.  published on YouTube, less than 4 minutes. 


"Panel on Catholic Peacebuilding"


Panel on Catholic peacebuilding, featuring, among others, Maryann Cusimano Love, The Catholic University of America; Fr. Ferdinand Muhigirwe, the Democratic Reublic of the Congo; and Peter Phan, Georgetown University.


“Synthesis: Gleanings on Process-Structures — Currents, Gravity, Streams and Leverage”


Mark M. Rogers, Tom Bamat, and Julie Ideh, “Synthesis: Gleanings on Process-Structures — Currents, Gravity, Streams and Leverage” found in Mark M. Rogers, Tom Bamat, and Julie Ideh, eds.  Pursuing Just Peace: An Overview and Case Studies for Faith-Based Peacebuilders (Catholic Relief Services, 2008):  145 – 154.


In “Synthesis: Gleanings on Process-Structures — Currents, Gravity, Streams and Leverage,” editors Mark M. Rogers, Tom Bamat, and Julie Ideh reflect on the notion of ‘process structures’ (first articulated by John Paul Lederach).  They articulate 6 key components that impact the creation and support of effective process-structures. They articulate 6 key components that impact the creation and support of effective process-structures.  


Ten Principles of Peacebuilding


This one-page summary published by Catholic Relief Services provides ten principles of peacebuilding.  


Catholic Social Teaching and Peace: Nonviolence, Justice, and Reconciliation


In Catholic Social Teaching and Peace: Nonviolence, Justice and Reconciliation, David Hollenbach, SJ explains that “Catholic thinking on issues of peace is quite complex and developing.” This keynote address explores the ethical and theological ideas about the pursuit of justice and nonviolence, the just (and unjust) war theory, and ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine and follows by relating to various situations in Africa. Time: 51:14 minutes. Delivery Date: November 7, 2017. Published: December 18, 2017 by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University.

Secondary Resources

R. Scott Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) (448 pp)

In his 37-page chapter titled "Religion and Conflict Transformation" (pages 207 - 244), Appleby offers a typology of religious conflict transformation, including the roles of religious actors in different phases of conflict – conflict management, conflict resolution, and postconflict peacebuilding – and three modes of religious engagement – crisis mobilization, saturation, and interventionist.  

Lisa Sowe Cahill, Global Justice, Christology and Christian Ethics (Cambridge Univ Press, 2013) (327 pp)

In her concluding chapter (pages 290-303), Cahill explains how the theological virtue of hope is engendered from within action to address the human suffering that wars produce.   She interweaves an overview of a theology of hope with concrete examples of peacebuilding as a strategy to reduce conflict and its causes and as a Christian expression of the politics of salvation.

David Steele,  “An Introductory Overview to Faith-Based Peacebuilding,” in Pursuing Just Peace: An Overview and Case Studies for Faith-Based Peacebuilders (Catholic Relief Services, 2008): 117–132.

This chapter first defines faith-based peacebuilding and then explores five dimensions that must be addressed in facilitating an effective reconciliation process (grief and trauma healing, hospitality, confession/apology, justice and forgiveness). He continues by describing the roles that faith-based actors can play.  He concludes with some best practices and lessons learned. 

Gerald Schlabach, “Signs of That Peace,” in America , 22-29 Dec 2014 edition, available online: http://americamagazine.org/issue/signs-peace

“Peacemaking is everyone’s business” is Schlabach’s understanding of Pope Francis’s message on peacebuilding or, more particularly, people-building.  After discussing various aspects of the Pope’s vision, the author provides suggestions - around Liturgy and Preaching, Catechesis and Catholic Higher Education, and Community Formation and Social Action – that will help to build a people of peace.  

Drew Christiansen, S.J., “Catholic Peacemaking, 1991-2005: The Legacy of Pope John Paul II,” in The Review of Faith and International Affairs 4:2 (Fall 2006): 21-28. available online:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15570274.2006.9523246?needAccess=true

Christiansen provides a summary of the direction of Catholic peacemaking during 1991 – 2005, in particular the contribution of Pope John Paul II. He proposes and discusses three distinct aspects: “(1) the articulation of a positive Catholic conception of peace and the development of new teaching on conflict with an accent on nonviolence; (2) an increased emphasis on international law and international institutions; and (3) the use of interreligious dialogue to counter violence and religious conflict.”

Mark Rogers, Aaron Chassy, and Tom Bamat, Integrating Peacebuilding into Humanitarian and Development Programming: Practical Guidance on Designing Effective, Holistic Peacebuilding Projects (Catholic Relief Services, 2010) (56 pp).  Efforts by international organizations to integrate or mainstream peacebuilding across the diverse spectrum of humanitarian and development work has tended to be opportunistic and ad hoc. This CRS paper on integrating peacebuilding into humanitarian and development programming seeks to clarify key terms, explore organizational frameworks and initiatives, provide some practical guidance, and list references or links to both thematic and procedural sources.  

CRS Guide about Peacebuilding, Governance, Gender, Protection and Youth Evaluations (Catholic Relief Services, May 2017) (32 pages) In the third edition of this guide, a youth assessment has been added to the tools. This complements the integration of peacebuilding, governance and gender considerations into development and humanitarian programming - all core competencies for CRS. Available in English, French and Spanish. 

Catholic Views on Drone Warefare (USCCB’s, Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, Office of International Justice and Peace)  Drones are proliferating and changing the nature of warfare as they are used in targeted killings. Who are the targets? How are they selected? What about due process? Would we stand for drones being used against us? Click here to access details on two videos by the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare, study guides, and supplementary materials on the Catholic perspective relating to drones and drone warfare.

In his article Catholic Peacebuilding, Scott Appleby states “Peacemakers make peace possible. Peacebuilders make it real.” This compact article provides a broad context for the state of peacebuilding at the beginning of the 21st century. Source: America, September 8, 2003, p 12-15. 

If You Want to Know More

Catholic Peacebuilding Network:  http://cpn.nd.edu/  

Catholic Relief Services:  https://crs.org/peacebuilding/

Caritas Internationalis:  http://www.caritas.org/

Pax Christi International: http://www.paxchristi.net/

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/index.html

Sant’Egidio Community:  http://www.santegidio.org/index.php?idLng=1064

·         Local- and national-level Catholic peacebuilding organizations, e.g., CINEP, REDEPAZ, and Justapaz in Colombia; Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute; Conciliation Resources