U.S. Government Agencies and Religious Peacebuilding

R. Scott Appleby

John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Professor of History at University of Notre Dame

Interviewed by Micaela Cayton Garrido, 2005

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

That opening that's provided by 9/11 and the heightened attention to religion does need to be exploited more thoroughly in part by the work that many of us do with government. A number of us - David Little of Harvard for instance, he and I cross paths on the lecture circuit all the time. We've been recently at MIT, we're going to the CIA. The next thing will be FBI and a number of other initials. The State Department, USAID, government agencies are more and more interested. And USAID happily has been more interested in dialogue and in religious peacebuilding. The CIA, FBI and other divisions of the government are more concerned with the prevention of religious conflict, or with studying "terrorism." But USAID has supported interfaith dialogues and studies on religious peacebuilding and that's a wonderfully heartening opportunity we need to build on. And so it's those kinds of meetings and those kinds of invitations that we have to accept and we have to be present to, because it's openings at higher levels. Governments and their agencies cannot create religious peacebuilding and it has to be very shrewd in how it supports local and regional efforts on behalf of peace. But the fact that it's bringing people together, with the US seal of approval, and with some funding and support, to talk about the issues that divide them.

One dialogue in Fez, Morocco was about different ways of interpreting sacred texts across religious traditions and the political implications of those different ways. How do we think about that? Well, in some ways it is a basic topic in religion and religious peacebuilding; but to have governments to be concerned about it and society to be concerned about it and want to foster more dialogue about that is a wonderful development, I think. So we do have an opportunity now because it's on the radar; to see the glass half-full instead of half-empty, even though a lot of that glass is concerned with negative coverage of violence, there is still a portion of it that can be given over to constructive dialogue about religion and peace.