Interfaith Conflict Mediation

Activity: Structure and Needs

The main goal of this practice is to establish a feeling of equality between each protagonist without harming anyone in the process, while maintaining the best conditions to lead a mediation. Each mediation requires professional and trained mediators to identify the needs and visions of each protagonist. Thus, this field activity requires training prior to implementation. This initiative can also exist in any sort of context may it be a conflict between people of different cultures, faith or opinions.

As for Interfaith Democratic Empowerment, religious leaders have to meet regularly to coordinate the program.  They organize regular meetings to debate social issues, reflect on their national laws, and learn how to structure an argument and even how to lobby. Communities come together with one another to share their perspectives and discuss their opinions. They go to court, when needed, as a group to defend their rights and fulfil their duties. They also launch awareness campaigns about topics of importance to them.

The interfaith exchanges can take place between several pairs of people of different faiths. They create a chain of solidarity by giving and receiving goods one might lack or benefit from. The objects they exchange are approximately equal in value.

Finally, “Religions to reconcile” consists of creating different groups working on interfaith issues through specific spectra:  youth, religious leaders, journalists, disabled and women. Each group has a specific mission. For instance, the youth group’s mission would be to find a target group of 80 people to implement sport and artistic activities to raise awareness on peace building. Each group has to come up with new ideas for inclusion within their area of expertise. The journalist group would work on addressing religious issues and how to promote peace through media, the interfaith leaders’ group would focus on how to lead and inspire their communities to be respectful of the others etc. In the long run, and the practice’s goal is to create different groups throughout the country. Therefore, each participant’s mission is to implement a group in their city to promote the initiative.

 

Objectives: Impact and Focus

This type of mediation is very inclusive of each culture, as it does not impose a certain way of resolving conflicts, allowing each protagonist to feel respected during the process. The promotion of this form of mediation is necessary in countries where one narrative is favored and undermines the other perspective.

Interfaith democratic empowerment encourages citizens of a given country or community to engage actively in building and strengthening their own democratic system. This is achieved through the influence of their religious leaders, and the association of their faith with personal engagement in civic responsibility. They gather as a community, which strengthens their ties, but they also share matters of national interest with people of other faiths. This activity assists in deconstructing possible prejudices by promoting a healthy discussion between members of different religious communities. Furthermore, it deconstructs the unilateral leadership of religious figures by empowering the communities themselves and creating leadership amongst them.

Interfaith exchanges create a chain of solidarity among many individuals who co-exist but do not necessarily encounter one another. They are a new way to establish a dialogue between people who have a hard time expressing themselves, as it is common to find difficulty to convey forgiveness after a trauma or a war. It is an alternative way to disclose one's desire to engage with the other, install a spirit of collaboration between people of different faiths, and strengthen the feeling of belonging to a broader community.

“Religions to Reconcile” involves all parts of society and offers participants in the opportunity to connect with others, especially from different religious backgrounds that are prone to strife, and collaborate together on long-term activities and projects.  

 

Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)

1.) Intercultural Conflict Mediation – ProPaz – Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala has endured around 30 years of armed conflict against its own population. The Mayan community was dramatically oppressed, and violence increased to the point of becoming a norm of everyday life. Today, ProPaz works towards promoting a culture of peace, and steps in when an intercultural conflict takes place. The organization has set up a specific cultural mediation process that suits the Mayan calendar in order to avoid imposing a concept that would go against their cultural values and beliefs.

 

2.) Interfaith Democratic Empowerment – Justice and Peace Foundation – Pretoria, South Africa

The Denis Hurley Peace Institute based in South Africa works throughout the whole African continent,  especially in zones of conflict, in order to build and strengthen democratic systems. The institute relays its actions via religious leaders on the ground. It elaborates and coordinates its programs with them from its headquarters in South Africa. The democratic empowerment program has led to the strengthening of opposition parties and the engagement of communities in the political system of the country.

 
3.)  Interfaith Material Exchanges – Interfaith Commission of Rwanda – Kigali, Rwanda

The Interfaith Commission of Rwanda unites victims and perpetuators of the 1994 Genocide through their religious communities, federated by their religious leaders, to create dialogue and cooperation. They build schools together, remake public trials and exchange goods as a means to establish dialogue between all the communities of the country.

 
4.) Religions to Reconcile – National Peace Council – Colombo, Sri Lanka 

In Sri Lanka, inter-community relations continued to deteriorate after the end of the war. Anti-Muslim propaganda was on the rise and there were attacks on Muslims by a section of the Buddhist clergy and their followers. In order to address the rising tensions, NPC (National Peace Council) began the Religions to Reconcile program to involve society in all its plurality.