Religion/Faith, Conflict and Peacebuilding

2 credits / 6 weeks weeks
16 Apr 2018 - 25 May 2018

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)

Distinguished Professor, Head, Dept. of Peace and Conflict Studies and Coordinator, International Peace Studies Programme
Dr. Toh Swee-Hin (S. H. Toh) is Distinguished Professor and a long-term consultant to the Office of the Rector at the University for Peace, where he teaches in peace education, gender and peace building, and international peace studies. He holds a MEd. and a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Canada. He served as Director of the Centre for International Education & Development (University of Alberta) and the Multi-Faith Centre (Griffith University). 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.

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