Join us at Harvard Divinity – The Evolving Field of Religious Peacebuilding

Join us at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the RPP Colloquium: The Evolving Field of Religious Peacebuilding: Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action, Volume II

Click here to download the flyer!

When: Thursday, May 5, 2016, 6 – 8:30pm
Where: Sperry Room, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave. | Cambridge, MA
Sponsors: Religions and the Practice of Peace Initiative; the Religious Literacy Project; and the El-Hibri Foundation
ContactLiz Lee-Hood

Religions and the Practice of Peace Colloquium Dinner Series

Space is limited. RSVP is required.

Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO, Tanenbaum and Hind Kabawat, director of Interfaith Peacebuilding, George Mason University’s Center for World Religions Diplomacy & Conflict Resolution, and Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action will discuss Tanenbaum’s groundbreaking new book Peacemakers in Action: Profiles in Religious Peacebuilding Volume II.

As a religiously-motivated peacemaker working in Syria and surrounding areas, Hind Kabawat will share insights on the challenges and opportunities in religious peacebuilding. Dubensky will then explore the evolving field of religious peacebuilding and the individuals who make it their profession—including Tanenbaum Peacemakers, who so often work in violent conflicts and now collaborate through their Peacemakers Network for in-country interventions.

The event will be moderated by HDS Senior Lecturer on Religious Studies and Education Diane L. Moore, director of the Religious Literacy Project.

Co-sponsored by the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School. With generous support from the El-Hibri Foundation.

Recommended Readings
Short List

  1. Hind Kabawat, Lingering Questions Surround Geneva III, article, The Huffington Post, online, Feb 12, 2016.
  2. Hind Kabawat, Riyadh Conference: What Makes It Different?, article, The Huffington Post, online, December 16, 2015.

Further Reading

  • Tanenbaum, “Underground Woman: Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning, Afghanistan.” In Peacemakers in Action: Profiles in Religion and Conflict Resolution. Edited by David Little. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 382-401.
  • David Little, “Religion, Violent Conflict, and Peacemaking.” InPeacemakers in Action: Profiles in Religion and Conflict Resolution. Edited by David Little. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 429-448.
  • Tanenbaum’s Combating Extremism resource that features Hind Kabawat:
  1. Testimony at U.S. House Committee Hearing on the Islamic State and Religious Minorities: a resource sheet about Hind Kabawat
  2. Hind Kabawat’s Full Testimony at the U.S. House Committee Hearing on the Islamic State and Religious Minorities

About this series: Launched by HDS Dean David N. Hempton in 2014, this monthly public series convenes a cross-disciplinary RPP Working Group of faculty, experts, graduate students, and alumni from across Harvard’s Schools and the local area to explore topics and cases in religions and the practice of peace. A diverse array of scholars, leaders, and religious peacebuilders are invited to present and engage with the RPP Working Group and general audience. A light dinner is served and a brief reception follows the program.

Combating Extremism: Reasons for Hope in Dark Days

Dear Friends,

People often ask me what can be done to prevent and stop violent extremism.

In our recent survey, people from across the world shared their answer. Overwhelmingly, they believe that education is the antidote to fear and prejudice. The message was loud and clear: religious understanding is essential to ending acts of hatred, large and small.

With that in mind and in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m excited to bring you Tanenbaum’s March Combating Extremism materials, which highlight women who are making history – today!

  • Women Who Pursue Peace and Justice: A resource sheet highlighting the efforts of religiously driven women in armed conflicts and women-centered programs that counter violent extremism (CVE).

As you’ll see, we focus on women peace activists who are religiously motivated. They are unsung heroines who work to counter and prevent extremism. While women across the globe are doing this urgent and admirable work, this resource highlights a few who have been recognized by Tanenbaum, and also calls attention to other wonderful programs that support women working for peace.

Read, download, and share this month’s resource sheet! Challenge yourself and others to understand the significant accomplishments of these women. And then follow in their footsteps (safely!). Even small acts in your hometown can have big impacts.

Let’s make history – each of us in our own way.

Joyce S. Dubensky,
CEO

P.S. Momentum is increasing – but we need your signature! Sign and share our Peacemaker’s Statement Against Extremism on Change.org

Female Defiance and Education in Afghanistan

Rukshana, who the Taliban stoned to death at age 19

Rukshana – the Taliban stoned her to death at age 19

 

On October 25th the Taliban stoned to death Rukshana, a 19-year-old Afghan girl, on the grounds that she had committed adultery. After Rukshana’s father forced her to become the third wife of a 55-year-old man, she ran away with Mohammad Gul, a 22-year-old young man who she loved. Unmarried, Gul is alive and recovering after receiving 100 lashes as punishment; however, Rukshana was forced into a pit dug in the dirt, deep enough to only leave her head above ground. Encircled by male Taliban officials, rock after rock was thrown at the young girl until she died. In the face of such brutality, viciousness and callous disregard for life, how do we fight back? …what can we do instead? 

Violence from without, violence from within, violence against women…  In his newsletter, Nicholas Kristof suggests how we can fight back against such ruthlessness. Moreover, in a 2010 op-ed, Kristof asks: …what can we do instead? That is, instead of responding to violence with more violence. His question was in response to the escalating violence in Afghanistan during 2010 following Obama’s decision to increase troops in the region, which in Kristof’s words resulted in mostly…more dead Americans and Afghans alike; however, in light of the recent tragedies that have left us shocked, fearful and vengeful, Kristof’s question remains pertinent. In his newsletter, he suggests that we can fight back through the social justice works that are being performed by the women in these dangerous regions.  Explaining in his op-ed that while there’s abundant evidence that…bombs harden hearts, schooling, over time, transforms them. Kristof is referring to the many locally administered Afghan schools that have flourished despite the heavy hand of the Taliban. The voices of these courageous women must be amplified and their work brought to light by those of us who never want to see another viral video of the sadistic murder of a young girl.

Kristof highlights the work of one such woman, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL). Dr. Yacoobi was first recognized by Tanenbaum as a Peacemaker in Action in 2002. She is a shining example of how women, in particular, can bypass patriarchal regimes and empower young women through education and professional development, thereby creating social networks for local Afghans to turn to. Kristof’s recognition of Dr. Yacoobi is essential as her growing network of institutes can serve as a model for other women who desire to strengthen the bonds not only between women living under dangerous regimes, but to provide alternative avenues for men who seek lives absent of violence. Dr. Yacoobi eloquently recounts the challenges she has faced during her May 2015 TED Talk. Recalling Taliban members who had asked for the same opportunities as the girls studying at AIL, Dr. Yacoobi poignantly explains, We cannot only train women but forget about the men, because the men are the real people who are giving women the hardest time.

Support of the local, including activists and organizations, is essential to bolstering human development in these regions. Kristof’s op-ed compares the failures of alien educational institutions in Afghanistan versus thriving native institutions, such as AIL. Even in the most dangerous regions, like Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan, education …is possible, provided the work is done without Westerners and in close consultation with local people, Kristof explainsFor example, his op-ed points out that while government schools regularly get burned down because they are seen as foreign installments, in 2010 Dr. Yacoobi’s AIL supported over 300 schools all of which remain unharmed. 

Establishing gender equality and educational facilities is fundamental for conflict resolution and peacebuilding, although these stories frequently go unheard. Tanenbaum, like Kristof, understands the vital and urgent need to disseminate stories of human development and accomplishment in a sea of violent, inhumane and dark tragedies. And due to our great respect for his ceaseless efforts to place a spotlight on the courageous work of those fostering development in some of the most troubled areas of the world, Tanenbaum will be honoring Nicholas Kristof at our May 2016 Annual Gala, together with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize winner, best-selling author and business executive who fights for justice. Kristof’s determination to focus on the work of women in the field is absolutely essential for furthering the on-going success of these dedicated activists. Kristof and organizations such as Tanenbaum are serving to rectify this uneven coverage and to highlight models of civic engagement that will inspire others in war torn regions around the world.

Today we are faced with a similar choice; that is to say, of responding to brutality with further dehumanizing violence or embracing those who are experiencing the very same fear. Patient and thoughtful responses are most crucial in times of uncertainty. The stories of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action and those highlighted by the superb reporting of Nicholas Kristof offer local alternatives to violence.

For more information about the work of Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action and other unrecognized or under-recognized individuals, please subscribe to Mr. Kristof’s newsletter and Tanenbaum’s email updates.

Ritu Mukherjee
Conflict Resolution | Tanenbaum

 

As Boko Haram rises, Nigerian Peacemakers Respond

Following the tranquility of evening prayers, the sounds of screaming children pierced Nigeria’s Dalori village as children were burnt alive. Boko Haram had arrived and three female suicide bombers detonated their vests, killing villagers who tried to stop their attack.

At Tanenbaum, we have witnessed the rise of Boko Haram through the eyes of our Nigerian Peacemakers in Action, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye. (Once mortal enemies, they now work together to teach warring religious youth and others to peacefully resolve conflicts.) Although ISIS dominates international headlines, Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terrorist group – according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index Report. In 2014, ISIS slaughtered 6,073 people, while Boko Haram was responsible for 6,644 terrorist deaths.[i]

“Boko Haram is devastating Nigeria,” noted Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky. “As thousands of families are torn apart by kidnappings, murder and fractured communities, children are being burned alive. But the victims of this local massacre are not the only ones affected. The global Muslim community, Christians and humanity at large is also suffering from these attacks.”

Peacemakers Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria, agree. Imam Ashafa notes how the media’s focus is on the atrocities committed by terrorist groups that claim the mantle of Islam. He worries that this overlooks the majority of Muslims who live peacefully and take action against terrorism. “The Muslim community is also a victim. We would never make attention-worthy headlines because the media wants to broadcast how much blood has been shed and how many have died, not how many were saved and how many fight against ISIS and Boko Haram.”[ii]

“Self-proclaimed Muslim terrorists capture the headlines, and many people incorrectly presume that terrorism and Islam are synonymous. And that leads to stereotypes, hate and alienation. This is a cycle we have to stop,” says Dubensky. “One way we can do this is through education. By sharing practical information, for example among teachers and community members, we can reduce hatred and make sure our communities become informed by facts instead of fear.”

Tanenbaum offers a range of educational curricula and other materials including its Combating Extremism resources, which help teachers and individuals address extremism constructively in classrooms and communities.

 


 

[i] The Institute for Economics and Peace. 2015 Global Terrorism Index Report. Publication. Accessed February 1, 2016. http://static.visionofhumanity.org/sites/default/files/2015 Global Terrorism Index Report.pdf.

[ii]Nigeria’s Imam and the Pastor Talk Interfaith Conflict Issues.” University of Massachusetts Boston. December 9, 2015. Accessed February 01, 2016.

An Attack Close to Home

Dear Friends,

On Monday, our friend Michal Froman was attacked by a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Thankfully, the pregnant Michal survived the stabbing, avoiding life-threatening injuries to herself and her unborn child.

The recent violent attacks in Israel/Palestine have been extremely troubling, further indicating that the ongoing struggle for Middle East peace remains woefully out-of-reach due to self-serving politics. But yesterday’s attack hit close to home for me, Tanenbaum and our Network of Peacemakers from around the world.

Ms. Froman is the daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, one of the first recipients of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action award. Rabbi Froman spent his life promoting reconciliation between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza. He envisioned a “humane state,” one in which all people — Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian — treat each other with respect and dignity. Rabbi Froman’s work brought many people together, including political leaders, and he perceived the conflict as a tragedy of “two peoples loving the same land.” By seeking the common ground of having a shared faith in God, his work often transcended politics and motivated his own work on a deeply spiritual level. Rabbi Froman dedicated most of his life to promoting reconciliation between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza.

So it was no surprise to hear the reports of Michal Froman recognizing her attacker’s humanity when describing the 15-year-old to police and the media. Her father-in-law surely would be proud and so are we.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Confronting Religious Violence

Union Theological Seminary
October 2-3, 2015

3,000 female captives held by ISIS. American Journalist Eliza Griswold told the story of one of these women, relating how, with the intervention of her father, she managed to survive and became one of the lucky few who escaped her captors.

Griswold offered poignant narratives obtained from members of the Iraqi minority communities living under ISIS during her remarks that marked the first day of the conference on Confronting Religious Violence hosted by the Union Theological Seminary early in October. Injecting a personal and human element into her remarks, Griswold spoke of a father she had interviewed who was forced to pose as a member of ISIS to purchase his daughter in order to get her back from the ISIS traffickers who had kidnapped her. Although there was a happy ending for this family, the tragic realization that so many others will not have such good fortune is heart wrenching.

Griswold spoke eloquently of the fine line she must always walk as a journalist and the need to avoid any appearance of being an activist. Although most people would agree that the powerful stories of the people who live amidst this terror are essential to the discussion of religious violence, they give rise to the question of “what do we actually mean by ‘religious violence?’”

Rev. Serene Jones, President of the Union Theological Seminary, started the conversation with the concepts of “Informed piety” and “compassionate wisdom,” tenets of the Seminary, along with “intellectual responsibility and a seriousness of focus” that must pick up where “religious violence” has become a trite reference when framing the complex nature of the conflicts we face today. We must understand current global conflicts contextually and not simplify their complex births with crude and ironically loaded terminology that has become ‘obsolete,’ ‘irrelevant’ and ‘ambivalent.’ In an effort to do just that, the conference sought to bridge the divide between the scholarly, religious and policy-making worlds. The historical, theological, political and legal discourse regarding the causes as well as the interpretation of and response to current trends of religious violence were explored. Speakers spanning a broad range of disciplines highlighted the shortcomings of the current mainstream understanding of “religious conflict” and specifically addressed the fallout from the war in Iraq and the current crisis in Syria. The conversation, although occasionally heated, found a consensus when the term “religious violence” came under review. However, while all agreed that religion does indeed matter, their thinking diverged on how it matters.

Father Patrick Ryan S.J., the McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University stated, “We people of faith have seldom looked inter-subjectively at war.” Father Ryan’s examination of the “fatal subjectivities” of the Abrahamic faiths, both in antiquity and modernity, was a powerful moment of reflection during the conference, which revealed how deeply religion does indeed matter.

In contrast, scholar Dr. Hossein Kamalay of the Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures Department at Barnard College sought to highlight the deficiencies in using the history of Islam and its theological underpinnings to understand today’s religious violence. Paraphrasing his argument, he suggested that violence could not be solely understood in terms of religion and belief but that it must be understood within the context of the economics, politics and the ever importance of power relations in a particular situation. Moreover, what we choose to study from the past greatly matters and it is in what we do not examine in history that may hold a key to understanding our present circumstances, i.e., what could have been done to create a situation of peaceful coexistence. It matters what people believe but let us not just speak of belief.

Dr. Scott Tenner presented a unique legal and historical perspective of the current crises in the Middle East. After his presentation, one was left to ask why longstanding international legal bodies have been underutilized and rendered futile during this extensive crisis. Continuing the legal discussion, Dr. Najam Haider of Barnard College spoke of the evolution of Islamic law from antiquity to the present. In contrast to what most people believe, it should be noted that Islamic law is inherently flexible and was therefore never codified.

Solutions remain elusive, but understanding the nature of conflicts will allow policymakers, academics and activists to respond in an appropriate, opportune and effective manner, which is what all those who work in the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding seek to accomplish!

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac speaks at the United Nation’s Church Center Chapel

Tanenbaum was honored to be a part of the United Nation’s seminal event, Faith for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held at the Church Center Chapel. Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Dr. Ephraim Isaac (Ethiopia) spoke eloquently to a diverse crowd; attendees from diverse religious backgrounds and beliefs gathered to discuss how religion can further the quest to eliminate poverty.

EphraimIsaac-UN-Chapel2015

TANENBAUM Peacemaker Dr. Ephraim Isaac (left) with Karin Achtelstetter – Credit: @KarinWaltraut

“I am here of behalf of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and as one of its Peacemakers in Action.

First let me congratulate you on your good efforts to deal with the critical question of poverty through the power of religion.

I used to be an incorrigible optimist. I am still, but a corrigible one. My remaining optimism is to see people like you here in this room that have the good will to do the good.

But, let us be realistic. In a greedy world where about 1% of the world’s population owns the wealth of the world and does not want to part with it, how do you propose to eliminate poverty in 15 years as you say? In a world where one American person would rather pay one million to travel to Africa to kill one elephant, or, where the King of Saudi Arabia would rent every room of the most expensive American hotel for several days and have a parade of over one hundred cars parked in a garage all of it decorated with red carpets…. especially at a time when thousands of Middle East refuges are seeking dire shelter, how do you convince the world to do what is right?

I am Jewish and yesterday, on Yom Kippur day, I chanted the Prophet Isaiah who said three thousand years ago (to paraphrase): You fast, you put ashes on yourselves, you exhibit your piety, and say to me “why do you not see our piety, how we humble ourselves with ashes on our heads?“  The Almighty responds, “Down with your piety, what I want is free the prisoners and those you oppress, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, help the poor…” If the great prophet has had so shouted about 3000 years ago, in other words, saying as we say today use your faith to help the poor, and that is what the Almighty G-d wants, and nothing has happened for 3000 years, how do you propose to abolish poverty in 15 years?

I know the World Bank has a lot of money, even if not as much as the 1% of the richest people in the world, and I know the religious people have all good intentions. Still how do we propose concretely to change the world?


Click here to learn more about Dr. Ephraim Isaac and Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action.

New Peacemakers in Action Announced!

al-Marwani_byKarimBenKhelifa-OeilPublic-forTIME

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani| Credit: Karim Ben Khelifa, Oeil Public for TIME

Around the world, extraordinary yet unknown women and men work tirelessly to build peace in conflict and post-conflict zones. Driven by faith, they dare to do the work that others are afraid to take on. At Tanenbaum, we are honored to recognize two of these inspiring peace activists, Yemen’s Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani, a Sufi Muslim, and the Philippine’s Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento, a Catholic, as our newest Peacemakers in Action.

Yemen’s Sheikh Al-Marwani negotiates peace between tribal leaders and works to counter calls for extremism. In the Philippines, Deng Giguiento is a teacher and has worked in the Mindanao conflict, creating alliances among conflicting Christian, Muslim and indigenous groups. Both Peacemakers have been threatened as a result of their work yet they persevere, deeply motivated by their faith and a vision of a peaceful future.

Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines)

Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento (Philippines)

Sheikh Al-Marwani and Ms. Giguiento join 28 Peacemakers from 22 conflict zones. Click here to read their exciting bios – along with the inspiring bios of this year’s finalists.

Tanenbaum Helps Bring Religious Leaders Together to Build Peace in Sri Lanka

Three weeks before the People’s Forum 2015, the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR)—an organization co-founded and directed by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action recipient Dishani Jayaweera and her partner Jayantha Seneviratne—held a four-day workshop, supported by Tanenbaum, where 50 religious leaders representing the four main faiths in Sri Lanka—Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian—came together. There, the religious leaders agreed on a set of recommendations for grassroots communities, opinion makers and national policymakers, as a “path for reconciliation and peace” in Sri Lanka, to be presented at the People’s Forum. From the list of recommendations they developed a National Road Map for Reconciliation, which lays out how best to advocate and implement those recommendations.

Exemplifying the power of the Peacemakers in Action Network, facilitated by Tanenbaum, Dishani invited her fellow Peacemakers in Action from Nigeria, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, to help implement a process with Sri Lankan religious leaders and develop the National Road Map for Reconciliation. As men of different faiths—James a Christian and Ashafa a Muslim—they once fought for opposing militias in the Kaduna State of Nigeria. However, after experiencing hate and violence destroy their communities, they joined forces 20 years ago to found the Interfaith Mediation Centre.

At Tanenbaum’s intervention in Sri Lanka, Nigerian Peacemakers Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa served as “living models” for the Sri Lankans; many attendees in the workshop were already followers of the Peacemakers’ transformative work in Nigeria! Their presence in Sri Lanka was not only inspiring but manifestly instrumental due to their wealth of knowledge and experience in conflict transformation. Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa’s contributions were well received during the development of the Road Map.

A crucial aspect to the process leading up to the People’s Forum, and one stressed by Dishani, Jayantha and the CPBR team, was the bringing together of religious leaders to collaborate with other socially active groups. Expressing a perspective similar to Tanenbaum’s philosophy, the CPBR team explained:

“[Religious leaders] have a ready source of knowledge and potential for peacemaking… and experience in caring for and advising local communities. They are highly intelligent, well connected, duly respected and very resourceful. They could draw out their existent source of knowledge, experience and resources and use it more deliberately for peacemaking.”[i]

The People’s Forum three weeks after the workshop was a remarkable success: bringing out the power of participatory processes towards ethnic and religious coexistence. Sri Lankans of every age, gender, faith and ethnicity presented their unique set of recommendations to 1,500 guests, including government bodies, religious leaders, civil society activists, the international community and community leaders from different regions. The recommendations were from heartfelt “grassroots perspectives,” and the event revealed how Sri Lankans believe the country should proceed towards reconciliation and peace.

Tanenbaum is proud to support the peacebuilding work of Dishani, Jayantha and the CPBR team, who over the years have established grassroots groups by engaging in a consultative process with women, men, children, youth, elders, and inter- and intra-faith leaders across every geographic region of Sri Lanka to facilitate dialogue, empower individuals for self-transformation and improve communities. With commitment, each group devised recommendations to further reconciliation and peace in their communities, with the end result of an impressive 2,688 recommendations. These recommendations ranged in their focus from those that could be implemented at community and regional levels as well as changes needed in national level policies; with the latter focusing on six key thematic areas, namely, opportunities for healing for those affected by war, implement the trilingual policy, restructure the formal education system, establish an inter-faith council to promote inter-faith culture, introduce media policy that respects diversity, and introduce constitutional amendments that ensure equality and equity.

After nearly three decades of civil war in Sri Lanka, the People’s Forum 2015 marked a historical event in the country by infusing hope among the participants for a future of reconciled communities and peaceful ways of citizen participation in governance. Since gaining independence from colonial rule in 1948, Sri Lanka has suffered from ethnic and religious polarization due to weak processes in nation building, resulting in the predominant Sinhala/Buddhist community competing with, and at times fighting against, other communities vying for equality in citizenship and fair share in statehood. Even though the war was ended in 2009 and victory declared by government forces, the country remains fractured and continues to struggle to overcome religious, economic and ethnic tensions.[ii][iii] 

The People’s Forum marked the culmination of 12 years of grassroots efforts by CPBR and seven years of inter-faith engagement, with the inter-faith journey since its inception accompanied by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the German Federal Foreign Office’s (ifa) zivik funding program. Following the success of the People’s Forum, Dishani, Jayantha and the CPBR team, along with the country’s religious leaders, have initiated the process of building a broad coalition to implement the Road Map—a map created by the people of Sri Lanka for reconciliation now and for future peace.

The Tanenbaum-supported intervention in Sri Lanka leading up to the People’s Forum, and the Forum itself, show that when peace activists motivated by faith come together, peace is possible.

[i]  CPBR (2002).Socially Engaged Religions for Coexistence in Sri Lanka.

[ii]  David Feith (2010). “Tamil and Sinhala relations in Sri Lanka: a historical and contemporary perspective,” in Global Change, Peace & Security, formerly Pacifica Review: Peace, Security & Global Change, 22:3, 345-353, DOI: 10.1080/14781158.2010.510270

[iii]  CPBR (2015). People’s Forum 2015 – To Heal Our Past, to Build Our Future: The journey of community voices for national reconciliation.

Peacemakers in Action Network: A Model for the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention

Photo Credit: KAICIID

Photo Credit: KAICIID

Last month, the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention co-convened the “Forum on the Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Incitement that could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.” The major outcome from the forum was a “Plan of Action for the Prevention of Incitement to Violence that could lead to Atrocity Crimes.” The Plan of Action is a draft document that will be revised and finalized during five regional meetings set to take place during the next year; and a “Declaration will be adopted at a plenary meeting of religious leaders” in 2016.

Eight major areas of consideration were highlighted in the plan – many of which are already being done by Tanenbaum and our Peacemakers: 1) “Monitoring” incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes; 2) Developing, speaking out, and circulating “alternative” messages to counter incitement and hate speech (Tanenbaum Peacemakers do this!); 3) Engaging in dialogue with the speakers and the potential audience; 4) Developing and revising education, curricula and capacity building (Tanenbaum’s education program does this!); 5) Engaging in or strengthening inter-religious and intra-religious dialogue and activities; 6) Engaging in dialogue on grievances; 7) Strengthening clarity of thinking and of message (Tanenbaum is a thought leader on the issues that fuel extremism); and 8) Engaging with political leaders (Tanenbaum Peacemakers often do this).

The Plan of Action also referenced several additional focal points , including the “mapping and networking of religious leaders who actively work to prevent or counter incitement that can lead to atrocity crimes around the world.” At Tanenbaum, we believe the UN and its partners have a model to reference and further explore in Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network.  Why not start where successes are happening – by learning about the religious Peacemakers already in action and having a powerful impact as they work together around the globe?

For well over fifteen years, Tanenbaum has identified religiously motivated Peacemakers working in areas of armed conflict, whose lives and liberty have been at risk in pursuit of peace. Thirty courageous Peacemakers with diverse experiences of conflict from 23 countries have been recognized for their peace work with the Peacemakers in Action Award. Convened every two years to share knowledge, successful practices and the common bond of their faith-driven work, the Peacemakers formalized their Network in 2011.

As a Network facilitated by Tanenbaum, the Peacemakers communicate regularly and even travel to each other’s homelands to work together to help build peace. Later this month, two Nigerian Peacemakers, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, will join their fellow Peacemaker, Dishani Jayaweera, in Sri Lanka to train religious leaders from different faith traditions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity). Already well-known in Sri Lanka for their work in Kaduna state, Pastor James and Imam Ashafa will serve as inspirations, models and experienced Peacemakers to Sri Lankans hoping to bring lasting peace to a country still recovering from a decades-old conflict.

As the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention smartly prepares to utilize a resource – religious leaders/actors – sorely underutilized in creating the conditions for a more peaceful world, Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, should strongly consider the Peacemakers in Action Network as a model for its efforts to map and network religious actors actively working to prevent or counter incitement that can lead to atrocity crimes around the world.