The Role of Religion in Conflict and Peacebuilding

by The British Academy

Number of pages


There is no evidence to indicate that particular religious traditions are, by virtue of their theology, more prone to violence or more likely to lead to conflict or peace than others. However, attention can and should be paid to the underlying and enabling factors that make it possible for individuals, religious or political leaders, or communities to embrace a religious discourse, symbolism or institution to carry out or justify violence. Simultaneously, it is necessary to remain intellectually flexible and cognisant of the fact that religion is not always relevant in conflict or peace dynamics.

Although it has been shown that religion can contribute to the escalation of conflicts, there is no fixed recipe for establishing which combination of actors, claims, external factors and religious features can ignite tensions and violence, where religious dimensions are central. Recognising the role of religion and engaging with its multiple facets do not replace the work required to address the other interlocking issues (e.g. deprivation, marginalisation, institutional malfunctioning, state failure, global dynamics of dependency) related to conflict and peace.

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