There is an increasing recognition that religious and traditional actors play a crucial role as peacemakers and peacebuilders in many conflict contexts around the world. While there are certainly examples to the contrary, there are those who do play a constructive role in contributing to conflict transformation. They are highly legitimate actors because of their moral authority and their passion for peace-work. They have in-depth knowledge of the conflict context and close relationships with the stakeholders, and can (or have the potential to) influence policymaking in the macro-political level. To better understand these actors on conceptual and pragmatic levels, the Berghof Foundation is conceptualising them as a specific sub-set of insider mediators for whom values and practices of religion, faith, spirituality, culture and tradition serve as the inspiration, motivation and guidance for their peace mediation efforts towards conflict transformation.
What role do such Tradition- and Faith-oriented Insider Mediators (TFIM) play in mediating and building bridges between conflict stakeholders? What challenges do they face in performing this role? What kind of support could they possibly use to enhance their contribution to conflict transformation and sustainable peace? These very questions and other relevant ones are to be asked in different kinds of conflict contexts during this 11-month baseline study commissioned by Finn Church Aid, the current secretariat of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
Besides six field studies in Myanmar (Burma), Southern Thailand, Lebanon, Colombia, Kenya and Mali, other forms of remote and online communication with such actors in other conflict contexts would be used to gather comprehensive baseline data, based on which further activities could be devised.
January – December 2015
The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers is a platform for a range of vital actors – from grassroots religious and traditional peacemaking actors to international NGOs and academic institutions. The aim is to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of peace- focused efforts through collaboratively supporting and strengthening the positive role of religious and traditional actors in peace and peacebuilding processes. The Network´s current secretariat Finn Church Aid has commissioned Berghof Foundation to undertake this baseline study to conceptualise these actors, their roles and mediation support needs.
Berghof´s conceptualisation of Tradition- and Faith-oriented Insider Mediators (TFIM) involves two different groups of actors:
1. Many TFIM may be identified from the legitimacy that they may derive traditionally and/or religiously.
2. Other TFIM may derive legitimacy from their social status and strong community engagement. What is important is that they purposely (and perhaps strategically) employ elements from religion, indigeneity and tradition in their efforts.
Both groups of TFIM are essentially influential in the sense that people are willing to listen to them and they are therefore potentially crucial agents for processes of constructive conflict transformation.
In early 2015, TFIM in six cases (Myanmar (Burma), Southern Thailand, Lebanon, Colombia, Kenya and Mali) were approached in order to learn about the premises and modalities of their work, the challenges and opportunities that they encounter, and the support that they could use. Additionally, through electronic communication and online surveys, knowledge from further network partners (and potential ones) would be included in the study.
To get a broader view, other stakeholders in the conflicts would be approached to understand their take on the role and support needs of TFIM. These could be the primary parties in the conflict, state actors, politicians, academics and organizations that facilitate the work of TFIM, e.g. civil society organisations, and other outsider mediators (if any).
Against the backdrop of the existing knowledge on insider mediation, tradition-, religion- and faith-based local peacebuilding, and first-hand stories from TFIM in the different cases, this study will:
For the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, the study would inform its evolving structure, resourcing decisions and programmatic focus. They could use the baseline data for developing pilot activities in selected cases to feasibly address TFIM´s needs.
The project is conducted in collaboration with Finn Church Aid – the current secretariat of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. The core funding is provided by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
February – May 2015: Field studies in Myanmar (Burma), Southern Thailand, Lebanon, Colombia, Kenya and Mali
June 2015: Berlin workshop on initial findings
July – October 2015: Collection of further baseline data from other conflict contexts
November 2015: Presentation of the baseline draft at the Second conference on non-formal dialogue processes and national dialogues: experiences from countries in transition, Helsinki
January onwards: Dissemination