Research
14 May 2009

Open University to research religious conflict

The Open University has received nearly £407,000 jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for research into religious conflict. The three-year project, Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Realities, will be led by John Wolffe, Professor of Religious History.

The research will explore how differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs have been translated into ideas and beliefs about security and insecurity; when and why such ideas led to conflict; and the extent of how Protestant or Catholic religion became labels of political significance. It will also investigate how similar historic conflicts ignited and spread and the circumstances conducive to breaking the cycle. The research programme will include work on attitudes in contemporary Northern Ireland in collaboration with the independent Belfast-based Institute for Conflict Research. It will culminate in a major international conference in Belfast in the summer of 2012.

Professor Wolffe explains: "Had a research programme on ‘global uncertainties' been launched three hundred years ago, an explicit concern with the domestic and international security implications of conflict between Catholics and Protestants would undoubtedly have been very prominent. Even a hundred years ago there was still influential support for the view that the most significant source of confrontation within and between European states was religion.

“While such a perception was eclipsed in the subsequent actual course of twentieth century history, in the context of its revival at the turn of the twenty-first century the longer term historical perspective merits closer examination. Moreover, local and regional tensions between Catholics and Protestants continue to be a matter of contemporary concern, especially in Ireland and the United States.

“The project will explore the long term resolution of regional tensions between Catholics and Protestants to aid understanding and address other contemporary religious conflict. Most notably there will be comparison with the perceived 'clash of civilizations' between Christianity and Islam."

The research will have wide interdisciplinary applications across the Humanities and Social Sciences. Successful development and synthesis of historical work in Protestant-Catholic conflict will provide a valuable resource for those engaging on research on related contemporary issues.

Editor’s Notes:
1. The project will run from 01 October 2009 to 30 September 2012

2. This grant is co-funded between ESRC at 64% and AHRC at 36%. ESRC is administering the grant on behalf of ESRC and AHRC. This ESRC/AHRC fellowship grant forms part of the "RCUK Global Uncertainties: Security for all in a Changing World" Programme.

3. This year The Open University is celebrating forty years as a major UK institution that delivers world-leading excellence in teaching, research and knowledge transfer. It has more than 200,000 students in over 40 countries and the research activities of its academic staff, based at its Walton Hall campus, benefit from partnerships with research groups from around the world.

The University’s freely accessible repository of nearly 10,000 research publications, Open Research Online, is the eighth largest university repository in the UK.

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