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Religion, Conflict, and Sustainable Peace: Causal Relationships and Recommendations for Development Cooperation

Religion generally plays a major role in the partner countries of German development cooperation. However, religion does not always seem to be favorable for development and peace. Conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria and Syria are often fought out between religious groups. Terrorist attacks by religious extremists are shaking Western countries and claiming even more victims in the Global South. This project investigates the causal relationships between religion, conflict, and peace and formulates recommendations for German development cooperation.
BMZ, 2019

Research Questions

- What religious conditions lead to peace or violent conflict?
- What policies seem to be promising for development cooperation to promote peace?

Contribution to International Research

Identifying and specifying conditions of how religious conditions (demography and dynamics of identities, content of religious ideas, institutions to accommodate group interests) can promote or harm peace.

Research Design and Methods

Multi-level research design: Quantitative cross-country analysis on the basis of four GIGA data sets; country level qualitative analysis; experiments and survey experiments in selected country cases with mixed religious demography (Liberia, Ghana).

Preliminary Findings

First quantitative cross country analyses confirm some of the drivers of religious conflict (e.g. dominance of one group, overlap of ethnic and religious group boundaries, previous religious conflicts) and identify new ones (e.g. “cooperation” of the state with religious groups; widespread use of social media).

It is particularly encouraging that the project has also identified a number of pro-peace religious effects, such as faith-based peace initiatives, mandatory religious education, interreligious networks with specific characteristics, high levels of religious freedom). This results should be taken with a grain of salt as they rely on correlation rather than causal identification.


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