Religion & Peacebuilding: Definitions & Conceptual Issues
Although there is no universally agreed upon definition of religion and religious actors, a few definitional references may help lend understanding to the range of actors and topics covered by this sub-section.
Douglas Johnston, also a scholar, explains that religion implies "an institutional framework within which specific theological doctrines and practices are advocated and pursued, usually among a community of like-minded believers."4
[Back to Top] 5 The addition of the spiritual dimension to a peacebuilding process can create access to the more deep-seated, affective base of different actors behavior, enabling them to examine critically their own attitudes and actions.
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[Back to Top] 7 It is important to note that rituals are not necessarily religious.
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Religious actorsReligious actors may be defined as "people who have been formed by a religious community and who are acting with the intent to uphold, extend, or defend its values and precepts."9
Religious authoritiesThis expression generally refers to "spiritual leaders and 'guides of the faithful.'"10 They occupy a position of authority in the religious organization or community.
Faith-based NGOsFaith-based non-governmental organizations are "non-state actors that have a religious or faith core to their philosophy, membership, or programmatic approach, although they are not simply missionaries."11
1. See, David R. Smock, Religious Contributions to Peacemaking: When Religion Brings Peace, Not War (Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace, January 2006).
2. Damon Lynch, "Book Summary of the Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation by R. Scott Appleby," Beyond Intractability, 2000.
3. R. Scott Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), 8.
4. Douglas Johnston, "Introduction: Beyond Power Politics," in Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft, ed. Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 4.
5. Ibid., 4.
6. Renee Garfinkel, What Works? Evaluating Interfaith Dialogue Programs (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, July 2004), 3
7. Lisa Schirch, Ritual and Symbol in Peacebuilding (Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2005), 12.
8. Scott, The Ambivalence of the Sacred, 282.
9. Ibid., 9.
10. Ibid., 285.
11. Susan Diklitch and Heather Price, "The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Faith-Based NGO Aid to Africa," Development in Practice 14, no. 5 (2004): 662.