Among the diverse conflicts that have led to divisions and violence in historical times and in the contemporary world, some clearly involve peoples who belong to different religions or faiths. Such conflicts have popularly created the assumption and conclusion that religion or faith has been or is a primary "cause” of violence and even wars. However, on careful analysis of the dynamics and complexities of the conflicts, this perspective is now being increasingly challenged. Drawing on exemplars from diverse regions and societies, this course seeks to clarify how religious and faith identities, beliefs and practices can motivate followers to engage in violent conflicts, albeit often in intersections with diverse economic, political and social factors. The potential for exclusivist interpretations of religious or faith "truths” to fuel extremism, intolerances, discrimination and even violence, including "terrorism”, will also be critically analyzed . On the other hand, there is a widening recognition that religion, faith and diverse spirituality traditions can play a positive role in building a culture of peace at local, national and global levels of life. The course hence will highlight the creative nonviolent contributions of faiths and religions in resolving and transforming conflicts and violence . Insights and lessons from strategies such as the expanding movements of interfaith and intra-faith dialogue as well as faith-based initiatives in peacebuilding will also be explored. The course will be especially relevant to peacebuilders working in contexts of cultural and faith or religious complexities and diversities.
- Professor: Course Instructor - Toh Swee-Hin