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Religion and peacebuilding

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Religion and peacebuilding

Symbols of various faiths
"Shalom" (in blue) and "Salaam" (in green) meaning "peace" in Hebrew and Arabic respectively.

Religion and peacebuilding refers to the study of religion's role in the development of peace. Scholars generally accept that religion has been, at different points in history, both advantageous and ruinous to the promotion of peace[1] However, there have been many approaches to explaining this variability.

Nathan C. Funk and Christina J. Woolner categorize these approaches into three models. The first is “peace through religion alone”. This proposes to attain world peace through devotion to a given religion. Opponents claim that advocates generally want to attain peace through their particular religion only and have little tolerance of other ideologies. The second model, a response to the first, is “peace without religion”. Critics claim that it is overly simplistic and fails to address other causes of conflict as well as the peace potential of religion. It is also said that this model excludes the many contributions of religious people in the development of peace. Another critique claims that both approaches require bringing everyone into their own ideology.

The third and final approach is known as “peace with religion”. This approach focuses on the importance of coexistence and interfaith dialogue.[2] Gerrie ter Haar suggests that religion is neither inherently good nor bad for peace, and that its influence is undeniable.[3] Peace with religion, then, emphasises promoting the common principles present in every major religion.

A major component of religion and peacebuilding is faith-based moral authority that contributes to the receptivity of negotiations and policies for peace.[4]


  • Judaism and peacebuilding 1
    • Hebrew bible 1.1
  • Christianity and peacebuilding 2
    • the New Testament 2.1
    • Consecration of Russia 2.2
    • Project Ploughshares 2.3
  • Islam and peacebuilding 3
    • Qu'ran 3.1
  • The Bahá'í Faith and peacebuilding 4
  • Hinduism and peacebuilding 5
    • Hindu Scriptures 5.1
  • Buddhism and peacebuilding 6
    • Buddhist Scripture 6.1
    • Engaged Buddhism 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8

Judaism and peacebuilding

Hebrew bible

The Hebrew bible contains many sources for religious peacebuilding. Some of which include:

  • The Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24–26) ends with: "May God lift up his face onto you and give you peace" – יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָלוֹם
  • Leviticus 26:6: "And I shall place peace upon the land" וְנָתַתִּי שָלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ
  • Numbers 25:12: "Behold I give him my covenant of peace" - הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת-בְּרִיתִי, שָלוֹם
  • Isaiah 57:19: Peace, peace to the distant and the close" - שָלוֹם שָלוֹם לָרָחוֹק וְלַקָּרוֹב
  • Psalms 11:5: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
  • Psalms 34:15: "Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it" - בַּקֵּשׁ שָלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ
  • Ecclesiastes 9:17-18:" The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
  • Isaiah 11:6-9:The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,the calf and the lion and the yearling together;and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear,their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
  • Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3 They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Christianity and peacebuilding

Blessed are the Peacemakers (1917) by George Bellows
A 2004 protest by CPT outside the Toronto office of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), protesting the detention of non-citizens under security certificates.

the New Testament

The gospels and epistles of the New Testament are often drawn upon for religious peacebuilding. Some of the more common examples are given here:

  • "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also". (Matt. 5:38-39)
  • "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Matt. 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-28)
  • "Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." (Matt. 26:52)
  • "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt. 5:9)
  • "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." (Rom. 14:19)
  • "as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Rom. 12:18)
  • "if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace." (1 Corinthians 7:15)
  • " God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33)
  • "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14)
  • "the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace- loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)
  • "He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it." (1 Peter 3:11)

Consecration of Russia

In Catholicism, there is a religious conception of "Consecration of Russia", related to Catholic Church's high-priority Fátima Marian apparitions, that promise world peace as a result of fulfilling of this process.

Project Ploughshares

Project Ploughshares is a Canadian non-government organization concerned with the prevention of war, the disarmament of weapons, and peacebuilding. Though it is an agency of the Canadian Council of Churches and is sponsored by the nine national churches of Canada, Project Ploughshares is run by and for people of a variety of different faith backgrounds. Project Ploughshares works with various NGOs operating abroad to develop research and complete analyses of government policies.[5] In the past, Project Ploughshares' work has included meeting with prime ministers to discuss nuclear disarmament, establishing and coordinating an agency for disarmament and security of the Horn in Africa, working with the UN and NATO on policy-making, and publishing research papers, one of which was endorsed by over 40 000 Canadians and had a serious influence over Canada's decision not to declare war on Iraq.[6]

Project Ploughshares takes its name from Isaiah 2:4 where it is written "God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more."[7]

Islam and peacebuilding


  • "The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace"(25:63)[8]
  • "And eat up not one another’s property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully."(2:188)[9]
  • "And when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say: 'To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you: we do not seek out the ignorant.'”(28:55)[10]
  • "Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely" (5:32)[11]

The Bahá'í Faith and peacebuilding

The Bahá'í Faith requires believers to avoid prejudice in daily life, to be friendly to people of all religions, social statuses, nationalities or various cultural traditions. At the nation's level, it calls for negotiation and dialogue between country leaders, to promote the process of world peace. For world peace, the Bahá'í Faith has the notion of "the Lesser Peace" and "the Great Peace". The previous one is considered the level of political peace, that a peace treaty is signed, and wars are eliminated; the latter refers to God's kingdom on earth, the world reaches its unity and in cooperation, all world's people uses an auxiliary language, a unified currency system, achieves economic justice, a world tribunal is available, and massive disarment of all countries.

Hinduism and peacebuilding

Hindu Scriptures

  • "May there be peace in the heavens, peace in the atmosphere, peace on the earth. Let there be coolness in the water, healing in the herbs and peace radiating from the trees. Let there be harmony in the planets and in the stars, and perfection in eternal knowledge. May everything in the universe be at peace. Let peace pervade everywhere, at all times. May I experience that peace within my own heart."(Yajur Veda 36.17)[12]
  • "Let us not concord with our own people, and concord with people who are strangers to us. Celestial Twins, create between us and the strangers a unity of hearts. May we unite in our minds, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the heavenly spirit within us. Let not the battle-cry rise amidst many slain, nor the arrows of the war-god fall with the break of day" (Yajur Veda 7.52)[13]
  • "A superior being does not render evil for evil. This is a maxim one should observe... One should never harm the wicked or the good or even animals meriting death. A noble soul will exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or cruel deeds... Who is without fault?" (Ramayana of Valmiki)[14]
  • "The chariot that leads to victory is of another kind. Valour and fortitude are its wheels; truthfulness and tirtuous conduct are its banner; strength, discretion, self-restraint and benevolence are its four horses, harnessed with the cords of forgiveness, compassion and equanimity... Whoever has this righteous chariot, has no enemy to conquer anywhere."(Ramayana of Valmiki)[15]
  • "An Eye for an Eye Will Make the Whole World Blind"-Mohandas Gandhi[16]

Buddhism and peacebuilding

Buddhist Scripture

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love. This is the eternal rule.
Nhat Hanh at Hue City airport on his 2007 trip to Vietnam (aged 80)

All tremble at force,
Dear is life to all.
Likening others to oneself
kill not nor cause to kill.

Whoever harms with force
Those desiring happiness,
As seeker after happiness
One gains no future joy...

Speak not harshly to other folk,
Speaking so, they may retort.
Dukkha indeed is quarrelsome speech
And force for force may hurt you.(Dhammapada 130-131,133)|[17]

Engaged Buddhism

Engaged Buddhism is a term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh in the 1960s to describe a more socially active form of Buddhism. Originating during the Indochina Wars with Nhat Hanh and the Unified Buddhist Church, adherents of Engaged Buddhism became participants in the war, not against the Americans or the Vietnamese, but against the violence itself, which they saw as unnecessary. They attempted to draw attention to the injustices of the war by placing themselves directly between the lines of battle and even engaging in self immolation.[18]

Engaged Buddhism represents a socially aware non-violent movement within the larger Buddhist community. Inspired by the Buddhist tradition of the Peace Wheel and the teachings of non-violence of Siddhartha Gautama, Engaged Buddhism has since spread to other conflicts in other countries, with groups in Tibet, struggling for self-determination; in Burma and Cambodia, advocating for human rights; in Sri Lanka, promoting the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement; and in India, working with untouchables.[19] The group has also since opened up churches in the Western world.[20]

See also


  1. ^ John Siebert, "Religion and Violent Conflict: A Practitioner's Functional Approach," The Ploughshares Monitor, Vol 28, No.2 (Summer 2007),pp9.
  2. ^ Nathan C. Funk and Christina J. Woolner, "Religion and Peace and COnflict Studies," in Critical Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies, ed. Thomas Matyok, Jessica Senehi, and Sean Byrne (Toronto: Lexington Books, 2011), pp 351-358.
  3. ^ 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, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005), pp. 18-36
  4. ^ Douglas Johnston, "Faith-Based Organizations: The Religious Dimension of Peacebuilding." in People Building Peace II: Successful Stories of Civil Society, ed Paul van Tongeren, et al (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2005), pp. 209-218
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Surat Al-Furqan [25:63] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  9. ^ "Surat Al-Baqarah [2:188] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  10. ^ "Surat Al-Qasas [28:55] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  11. ^ "Surat Al-Ma'idah [5:32] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  12. ^ "Sound & Mantra". Give Peace a Chant!. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  13. ^ Rajmohan Gandhi, "Hinduism and Peacebuilding," in Religion and Peacebuilding, ed. Harold Coward and Gordon Smith (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004)56.
  14. ^ Rajmohan Gandhi, "Hinduism and Peacebuilding," in Religion and Peacebuilding, ed. Harold Coward and Gordon Smith (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004)59.
  15. ^ Rajmohan Gandhi, "Hinduism and Peacebuilding," in Religion and Peacebuilding, ed. Harold Coward and Gordon Smith (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004)60.
  16. ^ "Hinduism and Peacebuilding," in Quote Investigator
  17. ^ "Treasury of Truth (Dhammapada) Chapter 10, Punishment". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  18. ^ Christopher S. Queen, "The Peace Wheel: Nonviolent Activism in the Buddhist Tradition," in Subverting Hatred: The Challenge of Nonviolence in Religious Traditions, ed. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (Cambridge, MA: Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, 1998)pp38-43
  19. ^ Christopher S. Queen, "The Peace Wheel: Nonviolent Activism in the Buddhist Tradition," in Subverting Hatred: The Challenge of Nonviolence in Religious Traditions, ed. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (Cambridge, MA: Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, 1998)pp39
  20. ^ Christopher S. Queen, "The Peace Wheel: Nonviolent Activism in the Buddhist Tradition," in Subverting Hatred: The Challenge of Nonviolence in Religious Traditions, ed. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (Cambridge, MA: Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, 1998)pp38
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