A User Guide to the Beyond Intractability Website, Built Specially for Religious Leaders and Workers


Compiled by
Jonathan Smith

Religion is commonly blamed as the source of violent conflicts around the world. Such negative press obscures the positive role that religion frequently plays in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Religion is a powerful force that can recruit the faithful in support of either violent conflict or peacebuilding. With the failure of dozens of peace processes in the 1990s, the field of conflict resolution has increasingly come to recognize the key role of religious organizations and other civil society organizations in violence prevention and peace. Many decry the gap between religious ideals and practice. Religious leaders and workers have the unique opportunity to shape lived religion (religious practice) into a catalyst for conflict transformation, reconciliation and social justice.

This website provides a wealth of resources for religious leaders and workers caught in difficult or intractable conflicts. Included are:

In addition to these resources, the site offers:

  • The ability to browse the Knowledge Base by category
  • A complete glossary for understanding terms related to peacebuilding

Introductory Essays to Intractable Conflict and Peacebuilding

  • What Are Intractable Conflicts? This is an introductory essay that discusses why some conflicts are more difficult to resolve than others. It explores the characteristics, causes, and consequences of intractability, and explains what the Beyond Intractability website is all about.
  • Underlying Causes of Intractable Conflict and Factors Shaping the Course of Intractable Conflicts are two essays that look at the underlying causes of intractability. Religious leaders and workers should understand these causes, as they are the things that need to be "fixed," if destructive conflicts are to be transformed into more constructive struggles and eventually resolved.
  • Conflict Stages - Most conflicts go through stages from emergence to escalation, stalemate, de-escalation, settlement, and resolution (often with a few loops thrown in). Some people believe that peacebuilding only happens after some sort of ceasefire or settlement is achieved, stopping the violence (see "Peacebuilding Stage.") Others see peacebuilding as happening throughout these stages of conflict.
  • An Introduction to Peacebuilding - This essay introduces the concept of peacebuilding and describes different settings in which it is used. It examines the structural, relational, and personal aspects of peacebuilding and begins to describe the different kinds of people who engage in peacebuilding efforts.
  • Stable Peace - Stable peace is the ultimate goal of peacebuilding. This essay explains the concept and shows how it differs from unstable peace, dispute settlement, and other "temporary" resolutions.

Essays related to religion and conflict

  • Identity Issues -- Religious identity is one of many identities that define us. This essay explains how religious and other classifications of identity may drive conflict or promote peace. Another essay on Identity Frames explains how people in conflict may define themselves by emphasizing certain identities over others.
  • Intolerable Moral Differences -- This essay explains how disagreement over values can generate sharp differences based on moral stances, leading to intractable moral conflicts. Distinguishing Facts from Values is an important method for dealing with value-driven conflicts.
  • Extremism and Violence are characteristics frequently attributed to religious conflicts. These essays aid the reader in clearly understanding the meaning of these terms and their relevance to conflict and peace.
  • Social Psychological Dimensions of Conflict -- People living in intractable conflicts suffer psychologically as well as physically. Conflicts foster Stereotypes which easily lead to Prejudice and Dehumanization. As religion speaks to the psyche, it can play a powerful role in reinforcing mentalities of conflict or overcoming them.

Essays on the roles of religious leaders and workers in peacebuilding

Religious leaders and workers as a key part of Civil Society have vitals roles to play in Addressing Underlying Causes of Conflict The following are especially relevant for religious workers and leaders:

Audio Interviews related to religious peacebuilding

Mohammed Abu-Nimer - Professor of Peace and Conflict Resolution at the School of International Service, American University

  • Professor Abu-Nimer is a Muslim Palestinian from Israel who has written extensively on Nonviolence, Islam and Peacebuilding.

Pamela Aall - Director of the Education Program at the United States Institute of Peace

  • Ms. Aall talks about how USIP fosters religious peacebuilding in areas like Mindanao

Greg Brown - Program Officer, Balkans and Caucasus Programs, International Rescue Committee (IRC)

  • Mr. Brown discusses how his program fosters cooperation between ethnic and religious groups in the Balkans

Helen Chauncey - The Coexistence Initiative

  • Ms. Chauncey discusses positive coexistence and how her organization is working to foster coexistence.

Sarah Peterson (with Angela Khaminwa) - Program Officer for Dialogue and Mainstreaming Coexistence, The Coexistence Initiative

  • This interview discusses the founding of the Coexistence Initiative, defines how coexistence differs from peacebuilding, and the path toward social reconstruction.

John Paul Lederach - Professor of International Peacebuilding, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

  • Professor Lederach discusses the importance of storytelling for peacebuilding.

John Paul Lederach - "The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace"

  • This speech illustrates how moral imagination helps to break the cycle of intractable conflicts

Robert Stains - Program Director, Public Conversations Project, Watertown, Massachusetts

  • Mr. Stains describes dialogue projects between religious groups.

Sallyann Roth - Family Therapist, Trainer, and Co-Founder of the Public Conversations Project, in Watertown, Massachusetts

  • Ms. Roth describes techniques for dialogue between groups.

Book and Article Summaries Relating to Religious Peacebuilding