05 Jan 2015

Policy Makers Must 'Get Religion' To Prevent Violence

‘Mistakes’ in policy-making can be avoided by learning how religion causes or cures violence.

So says Professor John Wolffe of The Open University, whose report, funded by Research Councils UK into religion, conflict and security is being launched in Westminster tomorrow (Tuesday 6 January). For example, Western policy towards post-Saddam Iraq would have benefitted from an informed understanding of the nature of Sunni/Shi’a divide within Islam and its political implications; current efforts to build a shared future in Northern Ireland would be strengthened by more attention to the role of the churches as agents of reconciliation.

The report 'Security and Global Uncertainties' is the product of 18 months of study funded by the Research Councils UK’s Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security and Research (PaCCS). It is led by John Wolffe, Professor of Religious History at The Open University, and draws together some of the work of other researchers who have participated in PaCCS (previously known as Global Uncertainties).

Wolffe, an expert on the history of religious conflict and its contemporary implications, said: ‘I hope that our report and this event will help both policymakers and the media in their efforts to avoid the mistakes and stereotypes that can arise from simplistic understandings of religion and its relationship to conflict and violence.’
Tristram Riley-Smith, External Champion of PaCCS at the Centre for Science & Policy in Cambridge and Director of Research at the Department of Politics and International Studies there, commended the research.

‘Research has an important part to play in helping administrators, legislators, and policy-makers understand and engage with people of faith and systems of belief. The need for this is pressing, not least because of the part that religion plays (directly and indirectly) around the world in acts of conflict and violence, peace and reconciliation.’

The event at the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House from noon to 4pm has attracted an eminent panel of scholars in the wake of violence committed in the name of religion all over the world.

Moderated by the BBC’sformer Defence and now Religion Correspondent Caroline Wyatt, the panel comprises: Dr Mustafa Baig (Research Fellow in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University), Dr Marat Shterin (Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Religion of King’s College); Professor of Sociology at Exeter University Grace Davie; historian Tom Holland, and journalist Betsy Hiel, Arabic-speaking foreign correspondent of the Pittsburgh Tribune.

The conference, billed as a National Consultation, is being co-hosted by Lapido Media, a philanthro-media charity, which has been a pioneer of religious literacy in world affairs since 2005.

Founding CEO Dr Jenny Taylor (07733 407620), a journalist who has reported from religious conflict zones in Africa and Asia, will be showing a specially commissioned film about the reportage of religious violence.

‘The invisibilization of religious beliefs especially among minority groups, has proven catastrophic in some cases, increasing insecurity in general and diminishing the potential for problem-solving’, she said.


Notes to the Editor

Link to the full report on the OU website:

Link to Executive Summary and Recommendations:

Journalists are welcome to attend this event. To register, please contact the OU press office.

Event details: 12 noon – 4pm Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, Westminster
PHOTOCALL 12noon with panellists

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