Religion Causes Violence? Syria and Sant’Egidio

Religion causes violence.

You might not agree with the statement, but you will probably agree that broadcasting media regularly make a connection between religion and violence. We often hear journalists, analysts and broadcasters on television talking about the role of religion in conflict situations around the world. From Nigeria to Northern Ireland, there is no shortage of film footage and broadcasting commentary linking religious places and people to violent conflict.

The link between religion and violence in the media is one of the things we are exploring in the Peacebuilding Through Media Arts project. We’re not out to prove that there is no link between religion and violence. We’re more interested in exploring what peace studies expert Scott Appleby calls ‘the ambivalence of the sacred’ – the ways in which religious narratives, identities and emotions can be used to further violent ends, or to create peace. (You can read more about his book here.)

We’re particularly interested in exploring the work of religious people and communities involved in peacebuilding efforts. Their work is often left out of the journalistic picture when analysis focuses on how religion causes violence.

The Sant’Egidio community is a good example of a religious community committed to peacebuilding work. You may not have heard of Sant’Egidio, but the community was instrumental in mediating the 1990-1992 peace process that eventually brought an end to the civil war in Mozambique, and has been involved in peace processes in the Balkans and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Sant’Egidio Community is currently making efforts to hold peace talks with Syrian representatives in an effort to bring about a peaceful and stable future for Syria. You can read about their work here.

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