Religion, Conflict, Peace

Picture from “The Standard” (Austria)

Conflict and peace have dimensions relevant to sociology of religion and theology. Over the last twenty years there has been a dramatic change in the kind of problems seen on the macro level of society due to the end of the east-west conflict. The danger of atomic overkill (“high risk, low probability”) is increasingly being replaced by so-called “low intensity conflicts”, which today take the form of terrorism and numerous highly inflammable conflicts (“low risk, high probability”). It is of particular importance that another type of conflict – identity conflicts with religious and/or ethnic origins – has now become virulent in addition to the purely socio-economic conflicts of interest. On the micro level – for example in schools – the problems of conflict and violence have increasingly shifted into the consciousness of students, teachers, parents and the public, making the need for theological conflict management in our schools more than obvious.

Up to now we have been dealing with these issues in the following projects and research fields.

  1. Ethos of Religious Peace Builders:
    The “new wars” with dynamics fed by religiously imparted identity politics belong to today’s most important trouble spots. However, religion does not only serve to escalate conflict. This religio-sociological research project funded by the DFG is using the example of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1991-1995) and its aftermath to examine the operating conditions and the ethos of individuals and groups of Islamic, Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant faiths who worked for peace and reconciliation, both during and after the conflict. The most important theoretical approaches are field and habitus analysis.

    Researchers: Leif Seibert, Zrinka Štimac

  2. Theology of Reconciliation:
    Since time immemorial, theological theory of atonement (and reconciliation) has been concerned with the relationship between man’s atonement to God and man’s reconciliation with one another. The doctoral study approaches this question hermeneutically. On the one hand, it draws on the results of the research project on {Bosnian peace builders}; on the other, it processes the experiences from {conflict mediation in schools}. Using these empiric results and in dialogue with the theological history of atonement theory, the systematic-theological issues which are relevant today will be drawn out and theologically processed. The goal of the study is to formulate the basic principles of a modern, experience-related, Christian atonement theory.
  3. Researcher: Axel Stockmeier

  4. Ecumenical Christian Churches in regions of Conflict :
    Many of the member churches of the World Council of Churches are directly affected by political, ethnic and military conflicts. The ecumenical movement as a federation of churches can be understood not least as the churches’ reaction to the conflict experiences of the First and Second World Wars. Today, corresponding collective experience is called for in very differing conflictive contexts and will continue to be transformed into new peace builing strategies. This project combines historical research on the conflict-related strategies of the ecumenical movement with case studies on their engagement in current conflicts such as in Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Serbia/Bosnia and South Africa. The goal of the project is to describe religious peace strategies and to reflect theologically on reconciliation processes as collective processes of psychological healing.
  5. Researcher: Priv. Doz. Dr. Gert Rüppell