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


    Arne Pieters

    Former GIGA Team member

    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.

    GIGA Focus Africa | 2/2024

    Peaceful or Contentious? How to Promote Interreligious Peace in Africa

    In African societies, celebrations of religious diversity exist alongside (violent) religious extremism. What determines whether interreligious relations are peaceful or contentious? What can we learn from positive examples, and what role does religious extremism play in interreligious peace?


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