This article discusses the different roles of religious leaders in peacebuilding processes, and their specific understanding of peace. It is based on analysis of 75 in-depth interviews with Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim religious leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina, conducted in the period from 2015 to 2017. In the first part, peace is analyzed as a concept that contains elements of giftness, spirituality, and praxis. Arguing for the relevance of all three elements, the article warns against possible misunderstandings that can come when peace is assessed only through directly measurable indicators. In the second part, peacebuilding activities of religious leaders are divided into three groups: 1) before conflicts, 2) during conflicts, and 3) in post-conflict phases. In those scenarios, religious leaders play preventive, reactive, and transformative roles, respectively. The preventive role comprises all activities related to the development of moral character and social ethics that promote non-violence. The reactive role includes activities related to humanitarian assistance, spiritual and emotional accompaniment, denunciation of crimes, and promotion of alternative social visions to those of group-separation. Lastly, in the post-conflict phase (the transformative role), peacebuilding is inseparable from the challenges related to the legacy of past violence, especially those of forgiveness, reconciliation, and memory of conflicts.

Author Bio(s)

Stipe Odak (Université catholique de Louvain); Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences (UCLouvain, Belgium), a doctorate in Theology from KU Leuven (Belgium). His research focuses on the intersections of religion, conflicts, and collective memories. He is a published poet and a member of PEN International center in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


peace, peacebuilding, religion, religious leaders, bosnia and herzegovina







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