Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 October 2023) | Viewed by 29565

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Department of Political Science and International Relations, London Metropolitan University, London N7 8DB, UK
Interests: religious nationalism
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Dear Colleagues,

Recent years have seen a burgeoning literature on the relationship between peace, politics and religion. Generally, this reflects how religion has made a remarkable return to prominence to sociological, political science and international relations literature. Confounding the expectations of secularisation theorists and secularists, religion is a core source of identity for billions of people around the world. Religion’s increased prominence can be seen in the context of both conflict and as a tool of conflict resolution, peace-making and peacebuilding. Recent years have seen various kinds of religious hatred and differences as central to many political conflicts especially, but not only, in the Global South. Evidence suggests that religious leaders and faith-based organisations (FBOs) can play constructive roles in helping to end violence and, in some cases, build peace via early warnings of conflict, good offices once conflict has erupted, as well as advocacy, mediation and reconciliation. In short, contemporary discussions about the relationship between peace, politics and religion highlight that religion can encourage both conflict and peace, through the activities of people individually and collectively imbued with religious ideas and ideals.

There is no single, elegant theoretical model enabling us to deal adequately with all relevant cases of religion’s relationship with politics, conflict and peace. Religion should not be seen in isolation as the issues that attract religious intervention are normally linked to what might be called “good governance” issues, that is, ways to improve people’s lives politically, economically and socially.

Many people find religion a key source of comfort, serenity, stability and spiritual uplifting. Some may also experience new or renewed feelings of identity that not only help to provide believers’ lives with meaning and purpose but also can in some cases contribute to interreligious competition and conflict and make pursuit of peace problematic. Post-Cold War globalisation has led to greatly increased global interactions between people and communities. As a result, encounters between different religious traditions are increasingly common—although sadly not always harmonious. Increasingly, it appears that conflicts between people, ethnic groups, classes and nations are framed in religious terms. Religious conflicts can assume “larger-than-life” proportions, appearing as existential struggles between “good” against “evil”. This development is played out in some countries, for example, the USA and Israel, via “culture wars” involving strongly religious and stridently secular people. Reasons for such conflicts are both varied and complex, but it seems clear that religious and secular worldviews can encourage notably different allegiances and standards in relation to various areas, including the family, law, education and politics.

What is clear is that conflicts can have religious dimensions, whereby real or perceived differences drive hatred and violence. Religion is ambivalent in this respect, characterised both as “angels of peace” and as “warmongers” (Appleby 2000). Religion’s ambivalence in this respect is linked to the fact that around the world, the relationship of religions to violence and conflict is unclear and can be expressed in different ways, at different times, and in different contexts. The inconsistency of the relationship of religion to conflict is made clear when we think about religious involvement in political violence in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and other parts of the world (Haynes 2019a). Yet, when tensions erupt into violence and conflict, there are also nonreligious issues to take into account, including ethnicity, gender, culture, class and power and wealth. Such tensions can be played out both within countries, for example, in Northern Ireland, Egypt, Nigeria, Fiji, Cyprus and Sri Lanka, and between them, for example, India and Pakistan, and Israel and Palestine (Haynes 2019b).

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that religion’s involvement in politics necessarily leads to conflict or even challenges to peace. Religion’s ambivalence in this regard is reflected in the fact that religion can play a significant role in attempts to resolve inter- and intragroup clashes and help to build peace. This underlines how the traditions underpinning and informing many religious expressions contain references not only to conflict and division but also to how the faithful should behave so as to try to achieve harmony and peace not only within themselves in the first place but also in relation to those who are not included within the individual’s religious community. These issues have provided the stimulus to numerous books and journal articles over the last two decades or so, which, while often differing greatly in subject matter and conclusions, often assess how religious leaders can play a role in ending conflicts and building peace. Seeking to summarise a huge set of findings regarding religious peacebuilding and what is often referred to as “faith-based diplomacy”, we note the following:

  • Religious leaders are uniquely positioned to foster nonviolent conflict transformation through the building of constructive, collaborative relationships within and across ethnic and religious groups for the common good of the entire population of a country or region;
  • In many conflict settings around the world, the social location and cultural power of religious leaders make them potentially critical players in many efforts to build a sustainable peace;
  • The multigenerational local or regional communities they oversee are repositories of local knowledge and wisdom, custodians of culture, and privileged sites of moral, psychological and spiritual formation (Appleby 2006). 

Religion and Culture Wars

Encounters between different religious traditions are common, but not always harmonious, sometimes leading to what Kurtz (1995: 168) calls “culture wars”. The reason for culture wars, Kurtz contends, is because religious worldviews, compared to those held by secular people, can encourage particular allegiances and standards in relation to various fundamental areas, including society, gender, state, territory and politics. Such conflicts can “take on ‘larger-than-life’ proportions as the struggle of good against evil” (Kurtz 1995: 170). According to the eminent Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Kung:

[T]he most fanatical, the cruelest political struggles are those that have been colored, inspired, and legitimized by religion. To say this is not to reduce all political conflicts to religious ones, but to take seriously the fact that religions share in the responsibility for bringing peace to our torn and warring world (Kung cited in Smock 2004).

In short, many contemporary conflicts have religious and/or cultural roots, fuelling both hatred and violence.

To counter this, religious leaders and faith communities are increasingly called upon to act as “angels of peace” rather than “war mongers”. According to Appleby (2000), the ambivalence of the sacred is intimately linked to the fact that the relationship of the world religions to violence is itself ambivalent. Holenstein (2005: 10) reminds us that:

All great God-narratives are familiar with traditions that legitimise force in certain circumstances, claim victims in the battle for their own beliefs and demonise people of other religions. However, at the same time there are sources that proclaim the incompatibility of violence with religion, demand sacrifices for peace and insist on respect for people of other religions. If we are to assume that, for the foreseeable future, the religions of the world will continue to be a factor in political conflicts, then it is high time that we strengthened the “civilising” side of the sacred and made it more difficult for it cynically to be taken over by political interests. What is said here about the relationship of world religions to violence can be considered generally valid for religions overall.

While most religious believers would regard their chosen religious expressions as both benevolent and inspiring, faith actors are sometimes linked to violence and conflict both between and within religious groups (or at least entities with a religious component to their guiding ideology). This is because sustained and implacable religious conviction may contain four discrete sources of danger:

  • Religion is focused on the absolute and unconditional and as a result can adopt totalitarian characteristics. The Abrahamic monotheistic religions—Christianity, Islam and Judaism—may have special difficulty trying to distinguish between, on the one hand, claims of the absolutely divine and, on the other, the traditions and history of human existence;
  • When claiming both absolute and exclusive validity, religious conviction can lead to intolerance, overzealous proselytisation and religious fragmentation. Religious exclusiveness is also typically hostile to both pluralism and liberal democracy;
  • Religion can increase aggressiveness and the willingness to use violence. Added symbolic value can be an aspect of religious conviction, deriving from profane motivation and aims that become “holy” objectives;
  • Leaders within faith-based organisations may seek to legitimise abuses of power and violation of human rights in the name of religious zeal. Because such leaders are nearly always men, there can also in addition be specific gender issues and women’s human rights concerns.

In addition, religious power interests may try to make use of the following susceptibilities:

  • Domination strategies of identity politics seeking to harness real or perceived “ethnic-cultural” and “cultural-religious” differences;
  • “Misused” religious motivation to inform terrorist activities;
  • Leaders of religious fundamentalist movements who “lay claim to a single and absolutist religious interpretation at the cost of all others, and they link their interpretation to political power objectives” (Holenstein 2005: 11).

The last point relates to what Kurtz (1995: 238) calls “exclusive accounts of the nature of reality”, that is, when religious followers only accept beliefs that they regard as true beliefs. Examples include the “religions of the book”—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—because each faith claims authority that emanates principally from sacred texts, actually, similar texts. Exclusivist truth claims can be a serious challenge to religious toleration and diversity and make conflict more likely. On the other hand, many religious traditions have beliefs that theoretically can help to develop a more peaceful world. For example, from within Christianity comes the idea of nonviolence, a key attribute of Jesus, the religion’s founder, who insisted that all people are children of God, and that the test of one’s relationship with God is whether one loves one’s enemies and brings good news to the poor. As St. Paul said, “There is no Jew or Greek, servant or free, male or female: because you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Galatians, 3: 28).

Bartoli (2005: 5-6) notes that “all religious traditions contain references in the form of didactical stories, teaching or even direct recommendation as to how the faithful should act in order to achieve harmony and peace within him/herself in the first place”. Religious individuals and faith-based organisations from a variety of religious traditions are actively involved in attempts to end conflicts and to foster post-conflict reconciliation between warring parties in the developing world. “Religious peacemakers” are religious individuals or representatives of faith-based organisations who attempt to help resolve intergroup conflicts and build peace (Appleby 2000, 2006; Gopin 2000, 2005; ter Haar 2005). According to Appleby (2006), religious peacemakers are most likely to be successful, when they: (1) have an international or transnational reach, (2) consistently emphasise peace and avoidance of the use of force in resolving conflict, and (3) have good relations between different religions in a conflict situation, as this will be the key to a positive input from them. It is often noted that the three Abrahamic religions share a broadly similar set of theological and spiritual of values and views and this potentially underpins their ability to provide positive contributions to conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Practical effects in this regard have increased in recent years, with growing numbers and types of religious peacemakers working to try to build peaceful coexistence in multi-faith societies, while advocating reconciliation and fairness in a world that often seems characterised by social and political strife and economic disparity (Bartoli 2005).

In conclusion, there is much agreement that: 

  • Many religious leaders and faith-based organisations are active in conflict resolution and attempts at peacebuilding;
  • Religious leaders and FBOs have a special role to play in zones of religious conflict, but associated peacebuilding programs do not need to be confined only to addressing “religious” conflicts;
  • Although in some cases, religious peacebuilding projects resemble very closely peacebuilding by secular nongovernmental organisations, the religious orientations of the former significantly mould their peacebuilding agendas and programs;
  • Faith organisations’ peacebuilding agendas are diverse, ranging from high-level mediation to training and peacebuilding-through-development at the grassroots;
  • Peace can be often promoted most efficiently by introducing peacebuilding components into more traditional relief and development activities (Smock 2001:1, 2006).

Finally, faith-based peacebuilding initiatives contribute “positively to peacebuilding” in four main ways. They can provide (1) “emotional and spiritual support to war-affected communities”, (2) effective mobilisation for “their communities and others for peace”, (3) mediation “between conflicting parties”, (4) a conduit in pursuit of “reconciliation, dialogue, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration” (Bouta, Kadayifci-Orellana and Abu-Nimer 2005: ix). We note the promise that religious peacemakers offer, while adding two problems: (1) “there is often a failure of religious leaders to understand and/or enact their potential peace-building roles within the local community”, and (2) many religious leaders lack the ability to “exploit their strategic capacity as transnational actors” (Appleby, 2006: 2). Such concerns are especially apparent in the Middle East and North Africa, a region beset by apparently growing political and societal tensions, following the Arab Uprisings of 2011. This serves to underscore both the potential importance of interreligious dialogue while also highlighting the roles of local and international actors to aggravate existing tensions—for example, in relation to Israel and the Palestinians or Iran and Saudi Arabia— and makes finding common ground even harder to achieve and, by extension, pursuit of peace in the region is (even) more problematic.

The Special Issue, ‘Peace, Politics and Religion’, seeks theoretical, comparative and case-study papers that examine these and other issues.

References

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

Appleby, R. Scott (2006). Building sustainable peace: The roles of local and transnational religious actors. Paper presented at the Conference on New Religious Pluralism in World Politics, 17 March, Georgetown University.

Bartoli, A. (2005). Conflict prevention: The role of religion is the role of its actors. New Routes, 10(3): 3–7.

Bouta, T., Kadayifci-Orellana, S. and Abu-Nimer, M. (2005). Faith-Based Peace-Building: Mapping and Analysis of Christian, Muslim and Multi-Faith Actors. The Hague, Netherlands: Institute of International Relations.

Conflict and Resolution Forum (2001). Faith-based peacemaking: The role of religious actors in preventing and resolving conflict worldwide. 10 April, Washington DC.

Gopin, M. (2000). Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking. New York and London: Oxford University Press.

Gopin, M. (2005). World religions, violence, and myths of peace in international relations. In G. ter Haar and J. Busutill (Eds). Bridge or Barrier. Religion, Violence and Visions for Peace. Leiden: Brill, pp. 35–56.

Haar, ter, G. and Busutill J. (Eds.) (2005) Bridge or Barrier: Religion, Violence and Visions for Peace. Leiden: Brill.

Haynes, J.  (2019a) ‘Peace, politics and religion’ in A. Kulnazarova and V. Popovzki (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Global Approaches to Peace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, pp. 643-662.

Haynes, J. (2019b) From Huntngton to Trump: Thirty Years of the Clash of Civilizations. New York: Lexington Books.

Holenstein, A.-M. (2005). Role and significance of religion and spirituality in development co-operation. A reflection and working paper. (Translated from German by Wendy Tyndale). Bern: Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation.

Kurtz, L. (1995). Gods in the Global Village. Pine Forge: Sage.

Smock, D. (2001). Faith-Based NGOs and international peacebuilding. Special report no. 76, United States Institute of Peace, October. Retrieved from: http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr76.html

Smock, D. (2004). Divine intervention: Regional reconciliation through faith. Religion, 25(4). Retrieved from: http://hir.harvard.edu/articles/1190/3/

Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Haynes
Guest Editor

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Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

26 pages, 342 KiB  
Article
Jürgen Habermas’s Translation of the Human Being as Created in the Image of God: Perspectives from Joseph Ratzinger and Alasdair MacIntyre
by Mary Frances McKenna
Religions 2024, 15(1), 118; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010118 - 17 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1344
Abstract
This paper considers Habermas’s translation proviso, which requires religious concepts to be translated into secular language when in the public sphere. Translation, for Habermas, protects the state from religious interference and elicits essential aspects of pre-rational thought—that is, religious and metaphysical thought, which [...] Read more.
This paper considers Habermas’s translation proviso, which requires religious concepts to be translated into secular language when in the public sphere. Translation, for Habermas, protects the state from religious interference and elicits essential aspects of pre-rational thought—that is, religious and metaphysical thought, which post-metaphysics cannot generate for itself, e.g., social solidarity. The task undertaken by Habermas’s translation proviso is illustrated through his own work of translation: that of the translation of the biblical image of humanity as created in the image of God into the identical dignity of each human being. To provide context to and to highlight the difficulties involved in Habermas’s translation proviso, consideration is given to the thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI and Alasdair MacIntyre on these themes. What is demonstrated is that Habermas’s translation is, in essence, assimilation and re-appropriation. In practice, it manifests itself as the truncation of Christian metaphysics, in which the divine Logos is replaced by or collapsed into the logos of intersubjective human language. The relational image of humanity as a creature distinct from the Creator, in which human reason is analogous to divine reason, is erased, leaving autonomous human beings, from which human reason emerges out of the discursive communication of the logos of intersubjective human language. The conclusion is that the translation proviso fails in its objective. An alternative to Habermas’s translation proviso, the presupposition proviso, is presented as a more apt approach to addressing the underlying issues involved: facilitating human flourishing in an orderly, free, and just society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
22 pages, 286 KiB  
Article
Why Do They Not Do More? Analyzing Peacebuilding Actions of Religious Leaders during and after Violent Conflicts
by Stipe Odak
Religions 2024, 15(1), 116; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010116 - 17 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1053
Abstract
This article examines how religious leaders navigate between tensions involving theological ideals of peace and pragmatic realities during violent conflicts. The findings are based on 75 in-depth interviews with Orthodox, Catholic, and Islamic religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, conducted between the years 2015 and [...] Read more.
This article examines how religious leaders navigate between tensions involving theological ideals of peace and pragmatic realities during violent conflicts. The findings are based on 75 in-depth interviews with Orthodox, Catholic, and Islamic religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, conducted between the years 2015 and 2017. The paper introduces the concepts of “theological dissonance” to describe mismatches between principles and actions, and “pastoral optimization” for the strategy of maximizing influence under constraints. Factors influencing engagement in peacebuilding include doctrinal traditions, individual differences, organizational capacity of a religious community, effective control over messaging, and audience receptivity. In terms of practical suggestions, the article proposes several measures that could enhance synergy between religious and nonreligious actors working together in this field, most notably, understanding each other’s scopes and limitations and clarifying what “peace” and “peacebuilding” represent to each partner. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
27 pages, 357 KiB  
Article
Between Religion and Politics: The Case of the Islamic Movement in Israel
by Suheir Abu Oksa Daoud
Religions 2024, 15(1), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010110 - 16 Jan 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1727
Abstract
The power of the “moderate” branch of the Islamic Movement (Alharaka al-Islamiyya, subsequently referred to as IM) Southern Faction (IMSF) in Israel stems from its ability to adapt to different situations, reconcile with the complex reality of being an indigenous minority [...] Read more.
The power of the “moderate” branch of the Islamic Movement (Alharaka al-Islamiyya, subsequently referred to as IM) Southern Faction (IMSF) in Israel stems from its ability to adapt to different situations, reconcile with the complex reality of being an indigenous minority in a state that defines itself a “Jewish state”, and operate within the state structure accepting democratic processes that have long been debated to clash with Islamism. Besides being represented in the Israeli Knesset since 1996, the culmination of this adaptation was the joining of the movement to the short-lived Zionist coalition government on 2 June 2021 (the government collapsed in July 2022). This historic entry of an Arab Party into a Jewish/Zionist government coalition for the first time in Israel’s history was a shocking surprise to many, not only due to the IM being an Arab–Palestinian movement but also an Islamist movement. My analysis shows that despite this reconciliation, the IM continues to emphasize religiosity, binding it to the national political struggle and identity of Israel’s Palestinian minority. For its supporters, the IMSF is seen as a meeting point of spiritual/religious needs on the one hand and material needs in the social, political, and cultural spheres on the other. However, for its opponents, mainly from the other Arab political parties, the IM had deviated from the national consensus and accepted strategies and tools to deal with the challenges facing them as a minority in Israel. And, for some others, the IM had even deviated from Islam itself. I draw on a field study that spanned several years. It is based on qualitative, extensive interviews with senior Islamist and non-Islamist leaders in Israel, as well as primary sources of the IM, including publications, leaders’ speeches, and social media. All quotes in this article are based on the author’s interviews during 2022–2024. Interviews with the following leaders and activists: IM leader Abdul-Malik Dahamsheh, sheik Ibrahim Sarsour, former MK Muhammad Hasan Ken`an, Nosiba Darwish `Issa, IM MK Eman Yassin Khatib, NDA’ chairman Sami Abu Shehadeh, secretary general of Abnaa al-Balad (Sons of the Country) Muhammad Kana`neh, and with Kufr Qare` former mayor Zuhair Yahya were conducted by in-person or by phone during summer–fall 2023. The interviews with former IMNF activist Aisha Hajjar, activist Zuhriyyeh ‘Azab, journalist Abd el-Rahman Magadleh, and DFPE member Elias Abu Oksa were conducted via What’s App, Messenger, and e-mail in 2022. The interview with political analyst Ameer Makhoul was conducted in December 2023 via Messenger. Follow-up communication was mainly through What’s App to clarify certain points. The interview questions focused on the reasons for the Islamic Movement’s division into two wings, the religious and political justifications for entering the Knesset and the coalition, the relationship between the southern wing and the main Arab parties active in the Israeli Knesset, the experience of unity with them, and the experience of its members while in the Zionist coalition. This article examines how the Islamic Movement in Israel uses religion as a tool to influence the national, cultural, political, economic, and social lives of the Arab minority in Israel. It asks: How does the Islamic Movement, religiously and politically, justify its involvement in the political game and in a Zionist government coalition, and how do Arab parties perceive this involvement? Moreover, it raises an important question about the nature of the movement: to what extent is the Islamic Movement a political Islam movement, and whether it has abandoned the basic goals of political Islam for the sake of becoming a democratic Islamic party? This article will provide significant insight into crucial aspects of the IM that have been previously overlooked. While being in a Zionist coalition gave hardly any latitude in decision making about policies, budgets were an attractive avenue for the Islamic Movement to guide public opinion and gain political support. The article comes during the ongoing war on Gaza, which will undoubtedly cast a shadow on the political climate and the political map in Israel in general and on the political work of Arab parties and the Islamic Movement in particular. Although it is too early to predict the impact of this war on the Islamic Movement and its political future, it can be assumed that the impact will be profound. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
20 pages, 568 KiB  
Article
The Role of Education on Human Dignity: Fostering Peace and Diminishing Violence
by Petra Kleindienst
Religions 2024, 15(1), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010066 - 4 Jan 2024
Viewed by 3147
Abstract
The concept of human dignity postulates that every individual inherently possesses intrinsic worth. This means that upholding human dignity demands an end to war and violence. Rooted in Catholic social teachings, human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human being is [...] Read more.
The concept of human dignity postulates that every individual inherently possesses intrinsic worth. This means that upholding human dignity demands an end to war and violence. Rooted in Catholic social teachings, human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human being is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This becomes instrumental in educating students about the imperative nature of respect, empathy and compassion towards all, irrespective of sociocultural backgrounds and individual beliefs. Given the profound implications held by the concept of human dignity, through their influence on their students, Catholic educational institutions can wield substantial influence in fostering peacebuilding initiatives and mitigating conflict. This research article presents a comparative study between California and Slovenia, highlighting variations in the autonomy of Catholic high schools in terms of teaching and curriculum development and implementation. Qualitative research into private Catholic high schools in these two states shows that those with greater autonomy tend to foster a more comprehensive grasp of human dignity. These schools also demonstrate students’ enhanced ability to swiftly detect violations of human dignity, even when such breaches are not immediately evident. These observations emphasise the crucial role Catholic educational settings thereby play in the realm of peacebuilding and conflict deterrence, underscoring the need to embed a profound comprehension of human dignity in the educational framework. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
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14 pages, 250 KiB  
Article
I Am What I Do—Negative Work as a Lens for the Study of Movement Chaplaincy
by Edda Stephanie Wolff
Religions 2024, 15(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010011 - 20 Dec 2023
Viewed by 865
Abstract
This article explores the application of the concept of negative work within Movement Chaplaincy, contending that this framework facilitates engagement with negative spirituality in this sphere of ministry. Using the lens of the ‘work of the negative’, it examines the interplay between spirituality [...] Read more.
This article explores the application of the concept of negative work within Movement Chaplaincy, contending that this framework facilitates engagement with negative spirituality in this sphere of ministry. Using the lens of the ‘work of the negative’, it examines the interplay between spirituality and political activism in Movement Chaplaincy, addressing potential resistance and inquiries surrounding the fusion of ‘negative spirituality’—focused on the apophatic and mystical-paradoxical aspects—and practical collective activism. This approach emphasizes the practical and theoretical aspects of challenging prevailing narratives, investigating self-subverting methods, and unearthing layers of non-identical elements within this process. It suggests that the evolving interest in the role of spirituality within social movements, coupled with initiatives like the Daring Compassion project, signifies a synergy between academic exploration and practical spiritual care provision. Ultimately, this article seeks to interpret activist work through the lens of spiritual accompaniment, creating space for an expanded understanding of activism across diverse identities and power dynamics. It proposes that the concept of ‘negative work’ serves as a tool for interpreting and deepening comprehension of the intrinsic dynamics within Movement Chaplaincy, fostering an inclusive and transformative approach to social and political change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
18 pages, 359 KiB  
Article
“Only a God Can Save Us Now”: Why a Religious Morality Is Best Suited to Overcome Religiously Inspired Violence and Spare Innocents from Harm
by Alan Vincelette
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1495; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121495 - 2 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1307
Abstract
It is common to hear the refrain that religion is a major cause of violence today. And this claim is not without merit. Religious differences can fuel animosity and lead to societal conflict. On the other hand, scholars have increasingly recognized the role [...] Read more.
It is common to hear the refrain that religion is a major cause of violence today. And this claim is not without merit. Religious differences can fuel animosity and lead to societal conflict. On the other hand, scholars have increasingly recognized the role of religion in overcoming societal divides and helping people to heal and forgive. This paper will examine the latter capacity of religion to minimize the harms that occur during violent conflicts. It will be argued that secular ethical theories often fail to provide any principles or foundations that can help moderate passions, alleviate tensions, or provide frameworks for what is licit in war. In fact, the world views of terrorists and secular ethicists of war are often strikingly similar. Religious ethicists, on the contrary, have often encouraged practices (prayer for one’s enemies, forgiveness) and provided principles (dignity of every human, non-combatant immunity, just war theory) that can help moderate the violent tendencies of war and bring about a more peaceful and equitable resolution. While religion is not entirely off the hook for promoting violent conflict, religion can provide ethical frameworks and principles that help minimize the harms of conflicts and promote world peace. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
18 pages, 1055 KiB  
Article
The Neo-Positive Value of Symbolic Representations and Ritual Politics: Reconsidering the South Korean Allegory in Popular Film, Asura: The City of Madness
by Patricia Sohn
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1362; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111362 - 27 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1527
Abstract
The article is a preliminary effort to join neo-positive and historical institutional analysis from comparative politics with insights from discursive and phenomenological analysis. It highlights a message arising from a South Korean film related to moral–ethical dimensions and the implications of development policy. [...] Read more.
The article is a preliminary effort to join neo-positive and historical institutional analysis from comparative politics with insights from discursive and phenomenological analysis. It highlights a message arising from a South Korean film related to moral–ethical dimensions and the implications of development policy. Taken in symbolic as well as empirical terms, the film proffers that economic development policy not attending to political institutional development—including correct institutional practices at the micro-level—is feeding Asia’s demons (e.g., asuras) rather than its forces of stability and (rational, democratic, participatory) political order. The film suggests that institutional atrophy and social decay may emerge from the breakdown of political institutions and participatory politics as a political system moves from rationalized institutions and practices into what the current work calls, “mafia politics.” Political ritual and political theatre are actively employed in the film in ritualized acts of the desecration of political order. The current work suggests that the analysis of symbolic representations relating to ritual politics and performativity (e.g., “political theatre”) located in certain art forms, such as international film, may be useful in studies of religion and politics, and in qualitative comparative political and historical institutional analysis more broadly. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
25 pages, 456 KiB  
Article
Democracy, Peace, and Religion in Nigeria: Can Religion Be Used to Consolidate or Undermine Democracy and Peace?
by Victoria Jatau and Kangdim Dingji Maza
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1305; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101305 - 18 Oct 2023
Viewed by 4018
Abstract
This study looks at the relationships between religion, democracy, and peace. It is based on this premise that this article examines how religion is used to consolidate democracy and promote peace in societies, using Nigeria as its framework of analysis. Using the qualitative [...] Read more.
This study looks at the relationships between religion, democracy, and peace. It is based on this premise that this article examines how religion is used to consolidate democracy and promote peace in societies, using Nigeria as its framework of analysis. Using the qualitative method of analysis where emphasis is placed on primary and secondary documents, which involve articles, reports, and newspaper articles triangulating with key informant interviews (KIIs) and stakeholder analysis, the findings of this article suggest that religion plays a significant role in the consolidation of democracy and peace given its important place in advocating some principles and ideals of democracy, which involve equity, fairness, freedom, pluralism, respect for diversities, and defending minority rights, amongst others. However, challenges associated with the weaponization of religion to pursue selfish political agenda and interests by both religious and political elites in Nigeria has become more of a norm than what is expected between both variables. This has helped in the creation of a hostile and unstable political environment, and in the pervasion of democratic and political institutions and agencies responsible for promoting accountable leadership, good governance, representative governance, political interference, and repressive policies, limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens who continue to impede the enhancement of a strongly consolidated democratic culture and peace in transition democracies such as Nigeria. This article suggests the need for relevant actors to ensure that institutions of the state are strengthened to provide the dividends of democracy. This can be achieved by addressing the challenge of the negative use of religion by the elites to advance unholy political interests and agenda. It is also important to create machinery to address the structural problems that breed poverty; political, economic, and social exclusion; and human rights abuses, limiting political and electoral freedoms. Addressing these challenges also requires relevant stakeholders and actors to understand that the process is multi-pronged, which also requires acknowledging, accommodating, and accepting individual and group diversities and, above all, requires the patience and the political will of these actors to ensure its actualization. Addressing these concerns will significantly strengthen and enhance the consolidation of democracy and peace in fragile and transition societies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
11 pages, 252 KiB  
Article
Violence and Corruption of Megachurch Leaders: Unravelling Silent Coloniality in Zimbabwe
by Bekithemba Dube
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1209; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091209 - 20 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1103
Abstract
This theoretical article argues that megachurches are an inadequately problematised factor in the Zimbabwean crisis and uses, as examples of violent and corrupt megachurch leaders, Emmanuel Makandiwa, Uebert Angel, and Passion Java. As Zimbabwe moves towards elections in 2023, ZANU-PF has resorted to [...] Read more.
This theoretical article argues that megachurches are an inadequately problematised factor in the Zimbabwean crisis and uses, as examples of violent and corrupt megachurch leaders, Emmanuel Makandiwa, Uebert Angel, and Passion Java. As Zimbabwe moves towards elections in 2023, ZANU-PF has resorted to using megachurches to enact propaganda, create voter empathy, and stir up violence, dividing the religious electorate along party lines in the process. The article is couched in decoloniality theory to position megachurch leaders within instability and as thwarting democracy in Zimbabwe. I respond to two questions: how do Makandiwa, Angel, and Java contribute to thwarting democracy while promoting corruption and violence? And, how can religion be approached from the perspective of decolonial thinking to reverse the crisis that has been created by prophets in Zimbabwe? I end by arguing that the Zimbabwean crisis takes various forms and that the role of megachurch leaders in finding a solution and in reconstructing narratives of peace and good governance in Zimbabwe cannot be ignored. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
23 pages, 375 KiB  
Article
Christian Nationalism and Politics in Ghana
by Jeffrey Haynes
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1202; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091202 - 20 Sep 2023
Viewed by 3741
Abstract
This paper argues that Christian nationalism is a significant religious and political ideology in Ghana, a west African country whose population is 70 per cent Christian. In Ghana, Christian nationalism is not simply Christians seeking to make their collective voice heard on issues [...] Read more.
This paper argues that Christian nationalism is a significant religious and political ideology in Ghana, a west African country whose population is 70 per cent Christian. In Ghana, Christian nationalism is not simply Christians seeking to make their collective voice heard on issues of national interest. Instead, Christian nationalists pursue a religious and political project with the aim of remaking Ghana according to their values and beliefs. To embed and consolidate influence, prominent Christian nationalists in Ghana both cultivate ‘insider’ status with powerful political elites and develop a high media profile in order to promote their views, encourage the government to adopt their policies, and increase the number of followers. This article makes two main arguments. First, Christian nationalists in Ghana seek to change public policy to remake the country according to their understanding of Christian morals and ethical behaviour. Second, Christian nationalists in Ghana pursue their goal—to build the kingdom of God on earth—in three main ways: (1) strong support for Ghana’s national cathedral, seen as a celebration of national unity and social cohesion; (2) attacks on alleged immorality of Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community; (3) vilify followers of minority religions to encourage the view that Christianity is the most appropriate religion in Ghana and that other religions are inferior. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
16 pages, 360 KiB  
Article
Overcoming the Imperialist Seduction: A Polylogue Reading of Mary towards a Theology of Peace
by Michaela Quast-Neulinger
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1189; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091189 - 18 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1641
Abstract
The current war waged by Russia against Ukraine once again sheds light on the ambivalent role of religion in violent conflicts, and especially the use of religious figures for imperialist political strategies. In this context, Mary is of particular interest, as she serves [...] Read more.
The current war waged by Russia against Ukraine once again sheds light on the ambivalent role of religion in violent conflicts, and especially the use of religious figures for imperialist political strategies. In this context, Mary is of particular interest, as she serves in Christian history (and presence) as the Queen of Peace, but could also take on characteristics of a warrior goddess. I suggest that investigating the complex use and abuse of Mary for imperialist strategies in the context of Christian–Muslim encounters can give some hints for overcoming the ever-present seduction of theopolitical imperialism, especially with regard to the current developments in parts of (Orthodox) Christian theology. Thus, I will first outline the premises of a political theology dedicated to peace that can only be worked out in a permanent polylogue of religions. Second, a historical overview shows the deep ambivalence of Mary as a theopolitical figure, particularly in the context of Christian–Muslim encounters. Thus, it is even more surprising that, thirdly, a close comparative reading of the Qur’anic Maryam can help to overcome the imperial theopolitical seduction. Finally, I will draw some conclusions about a theology of peace with particular regard to our conflictive times. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
13 pages, 284 KiB  
Article
The Last Jihadist Battle in Syria: Externalisation and the Regional and International Responses to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib
by Samer Bakkour
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1098; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091098 - 24 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2162
Abstract
When Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized Idlib, it alarmed and disturbed international observers. However, HTS is only one among a number of radical Islamist groups in a part of Syria that has become an incubator of Jihadism. As the last remaining redoubt of [...] Read more.
When Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized Idlib, it alarmed and disturbed international observers. However, HTS is only one among a number of radical Islamist groups in a part of Syria that has become an incubator of Jihadism. As the last remaining redoubt of the armed opposition in the country, the governorate has become an international concern. Events have now reached an impasse, and the time is thus right for a reappraisal that steps back and considers contemporary developments in the wider context of ongoing events in the governorate. This article also places local developments in a wider context in another sense by considering how regional and international interventions contributed to HTS’s rise in the Idlib governorate. This is particularly important as external interventions by Turkey, Iran, Russia and the US have not only failed to establish a sustainable basis for peace by addressing the root causes of violence but have actually inflamed hostilities and exacerbated the various challenges involved in ending the conflict, which has at times taken on the appearance of a proxy war. In seeking to better theorise externalisation, this article draws on peacebuilding theory. This historical and political contextualisation seeks to contribute to an improved understanding of HTS’s rise and the means through which it can be most effectively combated in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
19 pages, 305 KiB  
Article
Combating Daesh: Insights into Malaysia’s Counter-Terrorism Experience and the Deradicalisation of Former Detainees
by Mohd Irwan Syazli Saidin and Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid
Religions 2023, 14(3), 367; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030367 - 10 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3439
Abstract
Malaysia is no exception when it comes to the Daesh threat. Several vulnerable Muslim populations have been previously targeted by Daesh via specific modus operandi to fulfil the terrorism agenda. Based on a persistent concern about Daesh-related issues and their consequences, this article [...] Read more.
Malaysia is no exception when it comes to the Daesh threat. Several vulnerable Muslim populations have been previously targeted by Daesh via specific modus operandi to fulfil the terrorism agenda. Based on a persistent concern about Daesh-related issues and their consequences, this article critically explores the role of the security agency, the Counter-Terrorism Division within the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP), in addressing Daesh radicalisation in Malaysia. It examines the process and effectiveness of the top down and ‘soft’ approaches undertaken by the RMP via the rehabilitation and deradicalisation of former Daesh detainees before they rejoin society. The research is qualitative, and is based on a focus group discussion and in-depth interviews with representatives from the Counter Terrorism Division, terrorism experts, government officials and former detainees. The findings show that the RMP’s efforts to curb Daesh intimidation have been effective in terms of decreasing the number of new terrorism incidents, militant recruitment and the establishment of networks and cells. The introduction of ‘Module 30′, which involves theological and psychological improvement, and civil order, along with vocational training and ‘lifelong-monitoring’, has significantly contributed to rehabilitating and deradicalising the majority of former Daesh convicts in Malaysia, such that they embrace peace and renounce violence and religious extremism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Peace, Politics, and Religion: Volume II)
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