Religion/Faith, Conflict and Peacebuilding

2 credits / 6 weeks weeks
15 Apr 2024 - 26 May 2024

Professor Toh Swee-Hin (S. H. Toh)

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. 

Toh Swee-Hin (S. H. Toh)

Professor Emeritus , University of Alberta, Canada Laureate, 

UNESCO Prize for Peace Education (2000)

Dr. Toh Swee-Hin (S. H. Toh) is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Alberta in Canada. Formerly a Distinguished Professor contributing especially to the MA Programs in Peace Education, International Peace Studies and Gender and Peacebuilding, he has also undertaken teaching and research in universities in several universities in the Asia-Pacific, African and Carribean regions. He holds a MEd. (Educational Administration) and a Ph.D. (International/Intercultural Education & Sociology of Education) from the University of Alberta, Canada. Formerly Director of the Centre for International Education & Development (University of Alberta), he was also the founding Director of the Multi-Faith Centre (Griffith University), which was established to promote interfaith dialogue toward a culture of peace. Born in Malaysia, Dr. Toh has been extensively involved in education, research and action for a culture of peace, non-violence, human rights, gender equality, local/global justice, intercultural understanding, sustainability and interfaith dialogue in global South and North contexts. His international networks or consultancies include UNESCO, the International Institute on Peace Education, World Council for Curriculum & Instruction, UNESCO-affiliated Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding, Peace Education Commission- International Peace Research Association, the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Religions for Peace. In 2000, he was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education. Email:

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