2-3/2007 Content

82 (2007) 2-3: Religion, War and Peace

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For the leaving editor Knut Ipsen  

Andreas Hasenclever / Alexander De Juan


Grasping the Impact of Religious Traditions on Political Conflicts: Empirical Findings and Theoretical Perspectives
Andreas Hasenclever / Alexander De Juan

Drawing on a review of selected empirical studies and theoretical works we argue that religious differences rarely cause violent conflicts, but in many cases contribute to the escalation of secular disputes. Similarly, religions rarely contribute to conflict resolution, but have on many occasions played a decisive role in their de-escalation. In the second part we argue that these findings make sense if we assume a dominate role of political elites in most conflicts. These elites try to exploit religious traditions to foster the mobilization of their constituencies. If they succeed, the risk of escalation increases significantly. Finally, drawing on Scott Applebys distinction between strong and weak religions, we discuss formal features of religious communities that might safeguard their traditions from political exploitation and enable them to mediate conflicts and supervise the implementation of peace-agreements.

Christianity as a Resource for Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
Andrea Bartoli

This article explores the contributions made by Christianity to the escalation and de-escalation of conflict, the patterns of Christian peacebuilding, and the import of resisting manipulation. The article contends that factors fostering escalation are (1) closeness to power, (2) intolerance of others, and (3) exclusionary eschatological views. It also contends that contributions of Christianity to the de-escalation of conflict are to be found in forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as in the lessons to be learned from Christianity’s extensive history handling of power, treatment of the others, and vision of the future. Ultimately it is argued that the challenge of Christian contribution to peacebuilding and conflict prevention is to be found in a human heart open to the Spirit and capable to responding creatively to a given historical moment as illustrated in several examples.

The Decline of Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s Influence in 2006-2007
Juan Cole

This article examines the manner in which Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites, emerged to play a prominent and charismatic role in shaping Iraq’s political institutions in 2003-2005, after which his importance and effectiveness significantly declined. It is suggested that the three years after the American military overthrow of the Baath Party were a charismatic moment for Sistani during which a power vacuum allowed him to tower over events. The article also examines the decline of Sistani’s influence and suggests ways in which his charismatic authority was supplanted by more routine bureaucratic mechanisms, by political parties, and by paramilitaries who rejected the state’s monopoly over the use of force.

Ecumenical Consciousness as an Explanatory Variable for the Conflict Behaviour of Religious Actors: A Comparison of the Khudai Khidmatgars and Hamas
Michael Hörter

Using the concept of ecumenical consciousness, this article investigates a possible connection between the modes of religious thought by religious actors and their conflict behaviour. To this end, two Islamic movements are compared, that were/are both in a state of occupation: the Pathan Khudai-Khidmatgars and the Palestinian Hamas. The underlying premise of the investigation is that “universal“ Islamic movements prefer nonviolent forms of resistance, whereas “exclusivist” Islamic movements are prone to violence. This expectation is confirmed by an analysis of the means of communication in both movements and by an examination of their conflict behaviour. The significance of the explanatory variable, however, requires further precision; hence the article includes some desiderata for future research.

Buddhist Fundamentalism – a System-theoretical Outline of a Paradox
Mirjam Weiberg-Salzmann

As research has shown, it is religion that often plays a crucial role for the outcome of peace processes. Political elites have tried regularly to exploit religion in order to remain in power. In this line of thinking, the primary unit of analysis are actors and institutions. By placing social systems at the centre of my study, I hope to come closer to the solutions of the hidden question implied in the title: the paradox of Buddhist Fundamentalism. Therefore, I assume that the social function of the subsystems politics and religion, and their strategies are responsible for conflict and violence. Conflict and violence are here conceptualised as social systems themselves. Since 1983, Sri Lanka has been torn apart by a bloody civil war between the guerilla of the Tamil minority population and the Government formed by the majority Sinhalese. During the last decades, various attempts at negotiating a settlement have been made, which not only failed abysmally but led to further escalation of the conflict. By analysing the conflict using social systems theory, I try to pin down the reasons for the failure of peace.

An Integrated Strategy for Peacebuilding: Judaic Approaches
Ben Mollov / Ephraim Meir / Chaim Lavie

This essay based on an interdisciplinary framework rooted in Jewish perspectives draws on insights from political science, Jewish philosophy and social psychology in proposing an initial model for peacebuilding. It suggests that (1) realist and idealist approaches as represented by Hans J. Morgenthau and Martin Buber respectively, (2) possibilities for inclusive reading of sacred Jewish text, and (3) the results of empirical research in Arab-Israeli interreligious dialogue can serve as a multi-tiered approach to advance peacebuilding from a Jewish perspective. It combines an awareness of the dangers in the political environment along with possibilities for transformation, and the insights gathered in several years of empirical analysis of inter-religious dialogue.

Hinduism and Politics. On the Role of Religious Antagonisms in Indian History and Politics
Stephan Schlensog

In the first part of his article, the author proposes to give an overview of the interaction between religion and politics on the Indian subcontinent and to describe the ambivalent role played by religion in the course of India’s long history. In the second part, he concentrates on the rise of nationalistic, right-wing Hindu movements since the beginning of the 20th Century and describes their impact on Indian politics from the beginning of independence until the present day. In the end, Stephan Schlensog finds that the power of militant hindu-nationalist movements depends very much on the economic situation in India. Therefore, the decisive question is whether or not an economic development can be facilitated that dries up the breeding-ground for nationalism and fundamentalism on the subcontinent.

Interreligious Dialogue and Peacebuilding
Thomas Scheffler

The paper discusses the impact of interreligious dialogue on peacebuilding. Four problems are addressed: the ambiguity of “dialogue” as a logocentric contest for intellectual superiority; the need for leadership in short-term conflict management; established local patterns of interreligious relations and their disruption; conditions for the success of interfaith peace work. Based on a distinction between peacekeeping (preventing tensions from escalating into violent conflict), peacemaking (ending ongoing violent conflicts), and peacebuilding (stabilizing peace after a violent conflict), it is argued that the impact of interreligious dialogue has been weakest in the realms of peacekeeping and peacemaking and strongest in the realm of post-conflict peacebuilding.