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What is Inter-Religious about Inter-Religious Peacebuilding?

So I have spent some time working on inter-religious peacebuilding (IRP) programs. I always thought I knew very well what IRP was, after all, is that not what I wake up every day to go? But it now turns out that IRP is actually one of those things that you will think you know until you are asked to define it. Attending a CRS advancing inter-religious peace (AIP) learning event in the beautiful town of Konjic in Bosnia and Herzegovina this last week and this question arose. What is inter-religious peacebuilding? Or what is inter-religious about the peacebuilding work that we do?

I realized I did not have a straight answer to this question; none in the room full of very experienced persons and experts drawn both from the academy and the field seemed to have an answer either. This is what it is. Until you ask me, I know but when you ask me I do not know. But it was a good thing; it is a good thing. Being able to ask a good question and being able to frame it in a good way is the beginning of knowledge. It is always good to know something. And it is even better to invest in investigating in the process of knowing something. What my professor of philosophy used to call the “intellectual ahaa” is the best feeling that happens to thinking beings. It is nice to know but is beautiful to be conscious of the process that leads to knowledge; meaning being aware that you are in the process of knowing. Knowing satisfies the intellectual curiosity but knowing that you know and/or that you are knowing nourishes the mind.

That is exactly what I want now. I feel that I want to invest a little more in attempting to understand better and deeper the notion of IRP both as concept and as a process. I have two reasons for wanting to know this. The first is simple; this is about religion. The second is that the conversations on world conflict and peace seem to quite frequently touch on the subject of religion. This reminds me of my friends’ notion of “spiritualization of conflict.” I do not mean to say that religion and spirituality are one and the same thing but religion, seems to me, as something related to spirituality such that you may not possibly conceive religion devoid of spirituality.

There is something spiritual about conflict – often manifest in spiritual practices and rituals, most of which are religious. Does this sound familiar? Yes it does for indeed the gene in Scott Appleby already taught us about the ambivalence of the sacred. What is sacred and spiritual – often religious – may either cause conflict or build peace. I agree. Whether or not the result is religious conflict and/or religious peace is another subject. It is the one related to the question on what is IRP? What is inter-religious about IRP? Is it the actors; the processes; the methodology; the language; the tools; the teachings…etc? What is it? This is a very good question. 
What is Inter-Religious about Inter-Religious Peacebuilding? What is Inter-Religious about Inter-Religious Peacebuilding? Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on June 07, 2017 Rating: 5

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