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Religion and Peacebuilding

Harold Coward, Gordon S. Smith

Publication Year: 2004

In the wake of September 11, 2001 religion is often seen as the motivating force behind terrorism and other acts of violence. Religion and Peacebuilding looks beyond headlines concerning violence perpetrated in the name of religion to examine how world religions have also inspired social welfare and peacemaking activism. Leading scholars from the Aboriginal, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions provide detailed analyses of the spiritual resources for fostering peace within their respective religions. The contributors discuss the formidable obstacles to nonviolent conflict transformation found within sacred texts and living traditions. Case studies of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Cambodia, and South Africa are also examined as practical applications of spiritual resources for peace.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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1. A Moment of Opportunity?: The Promise of Religious Peacebuilding in an Era of Religious and Ethnic Conflict

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pp. 1-23

During our lifetime, religion has been anything but invisible. Predictions that it would become privatized, removed from the sphere of politics, economic development, warfare, and education, have proven false. In the 1960s, millions of Catholics joined their fellow U.S. citizens gawking in disbelief at the sight of priests and nuns marching with the civil...

PART I: Spiritual Resources within Religions for Peacebuilding

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2. In Search of the White Path: American Indian Peacebuilding

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pp. 27-43

In this chapter I will survey a number of religious ideas from selected American Indian nations to demonstrate the ways in which peace or peacebuilding is fostered among indigenous people. I will also explain how those same ideas can work to inhibit efforts toward peacebuilding. My decision to draw upon the religious ideas of several American Indian...

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3. Hinduism and Peacebuilding

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pp. 45-68

In historical terms, Hinduism is a relatively new phrase. To begin with, the word Hindu had a territorial rather than a religious connotation. It implied the Indian subcontinent. Before the start of the common era, the ancient Persians and Greeks ran into the great river Sindhu or Indus, which traversed the land mass now bearing the state of Pakistan, and...

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4. Missed Opportunities: Buddhism and the Ethnic Strife in Sri Lanka and Tibet

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pp. 69-92

This chapter explores the obstacles and potentials the Buddhist traditions harbour vis-

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5. Confucianism and Peacebuilding

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pp. 93-110

Confucianism is centrally and fundamentally about peace, social order, and harmony at all levels of society. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Confucianism is “harmony all the way down.” Confucians saw the establishment and sustenance of harmony as a primary goal achieved through the education and self-cultivation of citizens. Although there are...

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6. Judaism and Peacebuilding

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pp. 111-127

The central axis of Judaism has been rabbinic literature for 2000 years. Classical rabbinic literature has a mix of texts on the subject of conflict.1 There is an extensive body of literature celebrating peace as a religious value, as a name of God, and as a supreme ethical principle.2 There is some Talmudic discussion of legitimate and illegitimate...

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7. Islam and Peacebuilding: Continuities and Transitions

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pp. 129-146

Islam is the youngest of the Abrahamic religions, having much in common with its older siblings Judaism and Christianity. In fact, so close is it to those traditions, that the Qur’an, God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (ca. 570–632 CE), declares Islam to be the fulfillment of them, clarifying, purifying, and perfecting their sometimes wayward...

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8. Christianity and Peacebuilding

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pp. 147-166

In Nigeria, in the heart of Africa where the long-term expansion of Christianity and Islam meet, tensions are high. Many predict bloodshed. There are several indications that this might actually happen.1 Yet in the midst of this urgent and uncertain situation a most improbable scenario has occurred: a vibrant Evangelical Christian Pastor decided together...

PART II: Case Studies in Religion and Peacebuilding

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9. Creating Spaces: Interreligious Initiatives for Peace

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pp. 169-189

In this chapter I share a few stories of people from different religious and spiritual traditions who are working together for peace. There are many people engaged in such work—which makes it difficult to choose which stories to tell. Some of the most exciting initiatives are seldom chronicled, taking place at grassroots levels, away from the headlines and...

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10. Case Studies in Religion and Peacebuilding: Cambodia

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pp. 191-211

Over the past decade, Cambodia has been the focus of some of the world’s most concentrated peacebuilding activities in history. More than $1.8 billion was spent on the work of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) alone. The world associates Cambodia’s conflicts with the horrifying Khmer Rouge regime and its...

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11. History Unrequited: Religion as Provocateur and Peacemaker in the Bosnian Conflict

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pp. 213-242

For eighteen days in February 1984, a divided world set aside its rhetoric and took its differences to the ski slopes. The occasion was the XIV Winter Olympics, held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Despite the death of Soviet president Yuri Andropov and the ongoing violence in Beirut, reporters remarked that “the scene in Sarajevo was a kind of...

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12. Truth and Reconciliation: The South Africa Case

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pp. 243-260

One of the recent developments in peacebuilding and conflict resolution is the introduction of the phenomenon of “reconciliation,” prompted primarily by the nature of ethnoreligious conflict. Such conflicts occur between enemies living geographically close to each other, and they are no longer simply a matter of the “guts and blood” of...

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13. Northern Ireland: Religion and the Peace Process

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pp. 261-278

The best-known description of the Northern Ireland Troubles of the past thirty years is that Protestants and Catholics are so at odds with one another that violence, massive destruction to property, and widespread civil unrest have resulted. The media by and large have promoted this view and have popularized the use of religious...

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14. Religious Peacebuilding: From Potential to Action

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pp. 279-301

From the crusades, inquisitions, and holy wars of the past to the jihads and so-called religious conflicts of the present day, religion has a long history of implication in violence and war.1 Over the past three millennia, millions have been killed in the name of somebody’s God—notwithstanding the strict proscriptions...


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pp. 303-308


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pp. 309-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485859
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459331
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459330

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2004