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  • Project Ethos


    © Simon Eugster

The Ethos of Religious Peace Builders

In “new wars” – Bosnia, Lebanon, Palestine etc. – various religions play either an escalatory or a de-escalatory role. This research project examines Abrahamitic religions in this context, using the example of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and compares the religious institutions and alliances that are involved in a peace building role in the transformation of social conflicts. The pivotal points of the current Bosnian reconciliation process are, in addition to humanitarian aid projects, efforts at interreligious dialogue and especially religious education and training aimed at overcoming religio-nationalistic concepts of the enemy. The spectrum of the relevant groups ranges from international church and governmentally-related organizations (Caritas, Dobrotvor, IRC etc.) to initiatives operating on a local level (IMIC, Oći u Oći, NoviMost etc.).

Data on the credibility assigned to the relevant initiatives (attribution by others) will be collected in a cross-sectional poll within the perspective of religious complexity. With this background, the religious mentalities and life stories of representative members of the initiatives will be examined in open interviews and compared to each other (self-attribution). This will make it possible to elicit individual and collective identities and strategies, and biographical patterns, in order to work out interreligious congruencies, to relate the self and non-self perceptions of religious peace builders to each other and to locate the actors within their socio-structural contexts. The project thus aims to identify and explain the differences and commonalities among peace builders with different religious and confessional backgrounds. The central research question is

How do the public credibility, the habitual and biographical dispositions and the degree of religious organization of the initiatives and alliances of religious peace builders interact with each other?

Drawing on Weberian sociology of religion, a foundation is created that connects a typological-structural understanding of religious communities and institutions to an interpretation, related to actors and mentality, of habitual and biographical characteristics. In order to bring Weber’s network of classes, statuses, organization, and religious types up to date, the project adopts modern religio-sociological approaches: in addition to Yinger’s field-theoretical typology of religious complexity, particular emphasis is put on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory that makes it possible to relate socio-structural conditionalities to the religious dispositions of actors. In regards to the development of cognitive characteristics, H. Schäfer’s habitus analysis, based on Bourdieu, is additionally expanded by biographic-reconstructive instruments formulated by H. Streib.

With the assistance of these methods, the aim is to determine the problem-solving capacity of the religious organizations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, In other words, which religious actors are advantageously positioned for peace building activity and for what reason. The project expects to find evidence for the fact that the main responsibility for religiously motivated peace building seems to have been transferred from the religious elite to the social grassroots, because loosely organized peace initiatives enjoy greater credibility in the local population. Such small groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina could act as multipliers in the efforts at de-escalation and thus greatly promote the peace work. Unfortunately, local initiatives and alliances are scarcely being addressed – and sometimes not even identified – because up to now there has not been an investigation into the proprietary characteristics of religious peace builders. For this reason, the research instruments and results of this project will be made available to international NGOs and GOs in order to promote efficient cooperation with religious networks. Furthermore, the results will serve to develop normative-theological approaches to ethics in the context of the “new wars”.


  • Kauermann G., Stricker N.(2009). StatBeCe Bericht, Das Ethos religiöser Friedensstifter. Download (PDF)
  • Seibert, L. : Prototype analysis - MRV/Caritas/Merhamet/SOZ : Universität Bielefeld 2014. Download (PDF)
  • Seibert, L. : MRV Codebook : Universität Bielefeld 2014. Download (PDF)
  • Seibert, L. : Caritas Codebook : Universität Bielefeld 2014. Download (PDF)
  • Seibert, L. : Merhamet Codebook : Universität Bielefeld 2014. Download (PDF)
  • Seibert, L. : SOZ Codebook : Universität Bielefeld 2014. Download (PDF)


Heinrich Schäfer

Leif Seibert
Zrinka Stimac

Research Partner:

Cooperating Institutions:
Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies (CIPS) der Universität Sarajevo

External Funding:
Stockmeier Stiftung
Buhmann Stiftung

Research Transfer:
Friedens- und Entwicklungsorganisationen

A reasearch report is avaiblable here (PDF), albeit for the time being only in German.

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