Faith-based actors are often recognised as contributors to both conflict and peace. However, their work to prevent violent conflict, rather than bring an end to or recover from it, is largely unexplored. This is despite the growth of conflict prevention as a global social norm and field of practice. Based on collaborative research with faith groups and organisations in Nigeria, the Solomon Islands and Zanzibar (Tanzania), this paper examines faith-based forms of violent conflict prevention. It argues that faith-based approaches exist on a spectrum, from instinctive and ad hoc initiatives run by individuals and local places of worship to large-scale, systematised interventions led by global faith-based development organisations. Yet, while faith-based approaches to violent conflict prevention vary in form and function, they are consistent and distinctive in their emphasis on building resilient relationships at the local level, modelling forms of prevention embedded within local culture and that recognise the emotional and spiritual dimensions of transformative change. Faith-based approaches offer insights valuable to the wider conflict prevention field, which is increasingly critiqued for its liberal underpinnings and emphasis on technical and technological solutionism. Lessons emerge for others implementing prevention programmes, who could adapt elements of the unhurried, values-led, relationally sensitive approach demonstrated by some faith-based actors, albeit within their own structural limitations. Policymakers should support such adaptations and expand their view of prevention to explicitly include faith-based forms of activity, as to do otherwise risks missing opportunities and reproducing existing failures.
Bibliographical noteThis is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
FunderEconomic and Social Research CouncilThis research was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council through the Faith-based conflict prevention and early warning scoping project, grant number ES/L002116/1.
- Conflict prevention
- Liberal peace
- Religious violence
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies