The Potential of Religious Peacebuilding - a case study from Sierra Leone
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It is the purpose of this thesis to further knowledge and understanding of religious peacebuilding, and the added value of religious actors in peace processes. It is the proposition of this author that religious actors can play a constructive part in peacebuilding processes. From this proposition, if true, follows the question of how religious actors can contribute, and what roles they can play. The research is done in the form of a case study, looking at the work of the Interreligious Council of Sierra Leone during the Sierra Leonean civil war, as remembered and presented in in-depth interviews with twelve members of the Council’s executive board during the war. The above proposition is tested through an analysis of their answers to the two following questions, in light of existing literature: 1. Why and how were the IRCSL able to achieve what they did in Sierra Leone – and did their religious foundation make a difference or not? 2. What, if anything, can religious peacebuilders elsewhere learn from their experiences? The example of the IRCSL identifies context, relationships and trust, credibility and objectivity, and a focus on the peace-enhancing principles of religion as having been vital for the Council’s achievements during the peace process. Hence, though findings confirm that religious actors can contribute positively in peacebuilding, they also suggest that their potential is dependent on several factors. In a supportive context, their often nationwide networks, combined with their position and role in society, and the particular knowledge and expertise that follows their profession, can make religious leaders ideal peacebuilders. However, to be able to capitalize on their strengths, should the need arise, they need to focus on building cultures of peace within their respective institutions – to establish a positive context – and actively seek out and build relationships with society around them.