Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3G6
The Conrad Grebel Review 30, no. 1 (Winter 2012)
This simple story conveys meaning at multiple levels, not all of which relate to spirituality or religious architecture. In relation to tonight’s lecture, however, I find that it provides a compelling allegory – a parable, if you will – for religious contributions to peacemaking, while also conveying a valuable message about the potential for complementarity between religious approaches to peace and other approaches. Just as the third laborer’s inspiration and sense of purpose have the potential to sustain efforts over time and lighten the load of co-workers, so too does religion have a remarkable capacity to motivate and enhance peacemaking action. At its best, religious vision can support and indeed improve peacemaking in a number of significant ways – for example, by enlarging our understanding of what peace means; by deepening peacebuilding processes, placing techniques and methods in a more profound existential context; and by broadening the processes of peace, providing expanded possibilities for individual and grassroots participation.
Such questions may seem to deviate from our parable’s original intent, yet they help to bring key issues surrounding religious peacebuilding into focus, in ways that can help us situate this field of research, reflection, and practice in relation to the needs of the contemporary world. In this lecture, I propose that the academic study of religious peacebuilding is undergoing a renaissance, and that there is growing intellectual as well as practical interest in what used to be considered a niche activity of peace churches. Though not universally appreciated, the “cathedral builder’s” craft is in demand, and those who are committed to such work now face exciting opportunities to share their passion with a larger audience and to tell new stories about it – stories which neither denigrate non-religious approaches to peace nor sell religious approaches short. Stories which heartily affirm the value of the third laborer’s contributions without begrudging the particular virtues of the first two laborers. Stories that celebrate opportunities for fruitful secular-religious and indeed inter-religious collaboration, and that frame such collaborations as sources of new theoretical and applied insights into religion’s role in peace work.
2 “John Lennon – Imagine Lyrics,” Lyrics007, accessed at http://www.lyrics007.com/ John%20Lennon%20Lyrics/Imagine%20Lyrics.html on June 13, 2011. “Imagine” is the title track of John Lennon’s Imagine album (Apple, EMI: 1971).
3 A range of “new atheist” literature perhaps best exemplifies this attitude. See, for example, Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004) and Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007).
4 R. Scott Appleby explains fundamentalism as “a religious response to the marginalization of religion and an accompanying pattern of religious activism with certain specifiable characteristics.” He differentiates this mode of assertive religion from ethnoreligious extremism and religious nationalism. See Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000), 101, 107-108.
6 Cynthia Sampson, “Religion and Peacebuilding,” in Peacemaking in International Conflict, ed. I. William Zartman and J. Lewis Rasmussen (Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997), 273-316; Gerrie ter Haar, “Religion: Source of Conflict or Resource for Peace?,” in Bridge or Barrier: Religion, Violence and Visions for Peace , ed. Gerrie ter Haar and James J. Busuttil (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 3-34; Scott Thomas, The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Robert A. Seiple and Dennis R. Hoover, eds., Religion and Security: The New Nexus in International Relations (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004).
7 Chadwick Alger, “Religion as a Peace Tool,” The Global Review of Ethnopolitics 1.4 (June 2002): 94-109; Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mixed Blessings: US Government Engagement with Religion in Conflict-Prone Settings (Washington: 2007).
13 Megan Shore, Religion and Conflict Resolution: Christianity and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009); Desmond Mpilo Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness (New York: Doubleday, 1999).
14 For examples pertaining to these and other cases, see David Little, ed., Peacemakers in Action: Profiles of Religion in Conflict Resolution (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007); Douglas Johnston, ed., Faith-Based Diplomacy; Johnston and Sampson, eds., Religion, the Missing Dimension in Statecraft.
18 To take advantage of these opportunities, Conrad Grebel University College recently launched the Centre for the Study of Religion and Peace (CSRP), which aspires to advance scholarly knowledge and public awareness of religious contributions to peacemaking. Through research, dialogue, and broader educational activities, the Centre seeks to enhance understanding of the peace potential inherent in religious commitment, and actively explores ways this potential can be tapped to constructively and creatively manage differences in a complex, diverse, and interdependent world community. The CSRP aims to serve as a resource centre for religious peacemaking efforts, while creating a forum for dialogue and relationship-building among people of diverse faiths, cultures, and nationalities. It will also attempt to increase the College’s capacity to equip students with the tools they need to bridge cultural and religious divides.
19 For an overview of the peace resources in various world religions, see David Whitten Smith and Elizabeth Geraldine Burr, Understanding World Religions: A Road Map for Justice and Peace (Toronto: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007). See also Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, ed., Subverting Hatred: The Challenge of Nonviolence in Religious Traditions (Cambridge: The Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, 1998).
20 For discussion of peace and peace resources in Islam, see Nathan C. Funk and Abdul Aziz Said, Islam and Peacemaking in the Middle East (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009), 47-69 [see review in this issue – Ed.]; Huda, Qamar-ul, Crescent and Dove: Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam (Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2010); Frederick M. Denny, “Islam and Peacebuilding: Continuities and Transitions,” in Religion and Peacebuilding, ed. Harold Coward and Gordon Smith, (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 2004), 129-46.
21 William M. Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); Andrea Bartoli, “Christianity and Peacebuilding,” in Religion and Peacebuilding, ed. Coward and Smith, 147-66.
24 While definitions of religion are highly contested within the field of religious studies, Leonard Swidler’s definition is useful as a basis for PACS-related forms of analysis. According to Swidler, a religion is “an explanation of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly, based on some notion of the Transcendent, with the four C’s: Creed, Code of Ethics, Cult of Worship, Community-Structure.” See James L. Heft, ed., Beyond Violence: Religious Sources of Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 2004), ix.
28 John Kelsay, Arguing the Just War in Islam (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2007); Chaiwat Satha-Anand, “The Nonviolent Crescent: Eight Theses on Muslim Nonviolent Action,” in Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East, ed. Ralph E. Crow, Philip Grant, and Saad E. Ibrahim (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990), 25-41; S. Ayse Kadayifci Orellana, Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives on Peace and War in Palestinian Territories (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007).
32 James Wuye and Muhammad Ashafa, “The Pastor and the Imam: The Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum in Nigeria,” in People Building Peace II: Successful Stories of Civil Society, ed. Paul van Tongeren et al. (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2005), 226-32.
35 For reflections on spiritual qualities and their relationship to peacefulness as a personal discipline, see Monika Helwig, A Case for Peace in Reason and Faith (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992), 77-89.
36 George E. Irani and Nathan C. Funk, “Rituals of Reconciliation: Arab-Islamic Perspectives,” Arab Studies Quarterly 20.2 (Fall 1998): 53-73; Elias Jabbour, Sulha: Palestinian Traditional Peacemaking Process (Montreat: House of Hope, 1996)
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3G6