Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

Topics in Catholic Peacebuilding

Burundi Conference Bishop

It is often assumed that religion is a cause of violence rather than a force for peace. There is no denying that, in many conflicts, religion is used and abused for nefarious purposes. But that is only a part of the picture. The Catholic Church, often working with those of other faiths, has been a force for peace in many conflicts at a local level, nationally, and internationally. Here, we cover the theology, doctrine, methodology, and experiences of faithful efforts to promote justice and build peace in our troubled world.

The topics covered substantially in this section are religion and peacebuilding, theology of peace, development and peacebuilding, and reconciliation. Other topics—namely violence prevention, human rights, peace processes and mediation, and arms control and disarmament—are less well developed.

By reading through these documents, it will become clear how those practicing “lived religion” are engaged in what is often called “conflict resolution.” But there is more to strategic peacebuilding by those of faith than purely the secular, material dimensions. There can be a transcendent quality to it whereby leaders invoke collective behavior that is unexplainable in purely social-scientific terms. As aptly stated over a century ago by the renounced Harvard philosopher William James:

Like love, like wrath, like hope, ambition, jealousy, like every other instinctive eagerness and impulse, …[religion] adds to life an enchantment which is not rationally or logically deducible from anything else. This enchantment, coming as a gift when it does come,—a gift of our organism, the physiologists will tell us, a gift of God’s grace, the theologians say, —is either there or not there for us, and there are persons who can no more become possessed by it than they can fall in love with a given woman [or man] by mere word of command. Religious feeling is thus an absolute addition to the Subject’s range of life. It gives him [or her] a new sphere of power. When the outward battle is lost, and the outer world disowns him [or her], it redeems and vivifies an interior world which otherwise would be an empty waste.

Quoted from his The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, Longmans, Green, and Co.: London, New York and Bombay, 1905, pp. 43-44.