This article seeks to take a broadly human rights-based perspective to the question of the role that religion can play in building peace, preventing violence and reaching reconciliation in post-conflict situations. It takes as a fundamental position the notion that religions contain within themselves the potential for peaceful co-existence and preventing violence in all its forms. However, it also recognizes that there are numerous cases in which religion has served as the vehicle for expressing violent views and even as the pretext for violent acts. In taking a human rights perspective, it is necessary to ensure protection for religions and religious belief in order to foster this peace-building capacity of religions and to mitigate the possibility for them to be exploited towards violent ends. It is important to concentrate on the values that underpin building a culture of peace, including those taught us by the world’s major religions and supported by the secular values of human rights. This notion of peace comprises important elements allow people to enjoy a sense of security in their lives which, in turn, allows them to develop and take an attitude of tolerance towards others.
The primary purpose of the United Nations as expressed in Art.1(1) of the UN Charter is: “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;” Full text of the Charter is available online at: https://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml [accessed on 31 Jan. 2015].
As Amartya Sen (1981) Poverty and Famine: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Clarendon Press, Oxford) famously stated with regard to famine: “In the terrible history of famine in the world, no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press” which underlines the importance of a range of human rights to ensure human security, including freedom of speech. See also: Amartya Sen (1999) Development as Freedom (Oxford University Press).
Frances Stewart (2002) “The root causes of violent conflict,” BMJ 324(7333): 342–345 notes that “Many groups of people who fight together perceive themselves as belonging to a common culture (ethnic or religious), and part of the reason that they are fighting may be to maintain their cultural autonomy. For this reason, there is a tendency to attribute wars to “primordial” ethnic passions, which makes them seem intractable. This view is not correct, however, and diverts attention from important underlying economic and political factors.”
Rodolfo Stavenhagen (1990) The Ethnic Question: Conflicts, Development and Human Rights (United Nations University, Tokyo).
Laurajane Smith (2008) The Uses of Heritage, Oxford: Routledge, 2006 at Chapter 8. See Also: Brian Graham and Peter Howard (eds.) The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity, Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing.
Menachem Klein (2001) Jerusalem: The Contested City, New York: New York University Press.
Nandini Rao and C. Rammanohar Reddy (2001) ‘Aydohya, the Print Media and Communalism,’ In Destruction and Conservation of Cultural Property edited by Robert Layton, Peter G. Stone and Julian Thomas (London: Routledge) at pp.139-155.
Francesco Francioni and Federico Lenzerini, (2003) ‘The Destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan and International Law’, European Journal of International Law,14: 619.
Council of Europe (1993) War Damage to the Cultural Heritage in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 4th Information Report presented to the Committee on Culture and Education (Strasbourg: Council of Europe) [Document No. 6999].
Patrick J. Boylan (2002) ‘The Concept of Cultural Protection in Times of Armed Conflict: From the Crusades to the New Millennium,’ In Illicit Antiquities - the Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology edited by Neil Brodie and Kathryn Walker Tubb (London: Routledge) at pp.43-108. See also: Francesco Francioni (2008) ‘Culture, Heritage and Human Rights: an Introduction,’ in Francesco Francioni and Martin Scheinin(eds.) Cultural Human Rights The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff at pp.1-16.
This case is described in Raymond Cohen (2008) Saving the Holy Sepulchre: How Rival Christians Came Together to Rescue their Holiest Shrine (New York: Oxford University Press).
Glenn Bowen (2011) ‘“In Dubious Battle on the Plains of Heav'n”: The Politics of Possession in Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre,’ History and Anthropology 22(3): 371-399.
Cohen op.cit. n.11.
Bowen op.cit. n.12.
Paula Otis (2004) ‘Religion and War in the Twenty-first Century,’ in Robert A. Seiple and Dennis R. Hoover (eds.) Religion and Security: The New Nexus in International Relations 11.
UN Charter in its Preamble makes the linkage between peace and human rights clear in the first two paragraphs, as follows: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. Full text of the Charter is available online at: https://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml [accessed on 31 Jan. 2015].
Universal Declaration on Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948 in its Preamble. Text available online at: www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ [accessed 31 Jan. 2015].
In its Preamble. The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008. Text available online at: www.oic-oci.org/is11/.../Charter-en [accessed 31 Jan. 2015].
Tehran Declaration and Programme of Action On Human Rights and Cultural Diversity Adopted by the “Non – Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 3-4 September 2007
Patrick Thornberry (1991) International Law and the Rights of Minorities (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
See, for example: Johan Elverskog (2011) Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road (University of Pennsylvania Press).
Brian Cox and Daniel Philpott (2003) ‘Faith-based diplomacy: an ancient idea newly emergent’, Brandywine Review of Faith and International Affairs 31 at p.34 reprinted in James A. R. Nafziger, Robert Kirkwood Paterson, Alison Dundes Renteln (eds.) (2010) Cultural Law: International, Comparative, and Indigenous, Cambridge University Press, at pp. 910-11.
See, for example: Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women of 1995 and Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000), 1880 and 1888 (2009) calling for the promotion of women’s participation at all levels of decision-making on peace, disarmament and security issues.
Valerie Morgan (1995) ‘Peacemakers? Peacekeepers? Women in Northern Ireland 1969 – 1995,’ Professorial Lecture, University of Ulster, 25 October 1995; Valerie Morgan and G. Fraser (1995) 'Women and the Northern Ireland Conflict - Experiences and Responses' in S. Dunn (ed.) Facets of the Conflict in Northern Ireland (London: Macmillan/St Martin's Press).
Cecilia Ntombizodwa Mzvondiwa (2007) ‘The role of women in the reconstruction and building of peace in Rwanda: Peace prospects for the Great Lakes Region,’ African Security Review 16(1) available online at http://www.issafrica.org/topics/peacekeeping-and-conflict-management/01-mar-2007-the-role-of-women-in-the-reconstruction-and-building-of-peace-in-rwanda-peace-prospects-for-the-great-lakes-region-cecilia-ntombizodwa [accessed 31 Jan. 2015]. See also: Jeanne Izabiliza (n.d.) ‘The role of women in reconstruction: experience of Rwanda,’ report prepared for UNESCO, available online at: www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin /.../Role-Women-Rwanda.pdf [accessed 31 Jan. 2015]. At p.2, the linkage between women playing their role in building peace post-conflict is made clear: “The contribution of women in peace building and reconciliation efforts can become most effective by increasing their participation in decision-making organs and in the implementation of policies at institutional and community levels”.
M.J. Mathey, T. Dejan, M. Deballe, R. Sopio, A. Koulaninga and J. Moga (2003). The Role Played by Women of the Central African Republic in the Prevention and Resolutions of Conflicts. In UNESCO, Women and Peace in Africa (pp. 35-46). Paris: UNESCO Workshop at p. 41.
V. Ngongo-Mbede (2003). The Traditional Mediation of Conflicts by Women in Cameroon. In UNESCO, Women and Peace in Africa (pp.27-34). Paris: UNESCO Workshops.