Religion And Its Role In Conflict Resolution

ABSTRACT Today, there are many conflicts around the world. More often, the issues in conflicts are traceable to religion by some scholars. And this constitutes a problem as to if religion can offer anything positive in the resolution of conflict and building of peace in the society. Most of the time, religion is viewed as a motive for conflict and has emerged as a key component in many current and past conflicts. However, religion does not always drive violence; it is also an integral factor in the resolution of conflict and reconciliation process. Religion touches upon the deepest levels of identity. It can mobilize people for war, but also for lasting peace. Religion in many parts of the world is contributing to violent conflict, although exaggerated in many cases. But, religion is a source not only of intolerance, human rights violations, and extremist violence, but also of non-violent conflict transformation, the defense of human rights, integrity in government, and reconciliation and stability in divided societies. So, this paper addresses the role of religion in conflict resolution. It looks into what religion can do to help build peace in the society, to reduce violence and save lives.


The use of religion in conflict has been a factor that has become prominent in a number of conflicts. Whether religion is the main cause in most of these conflicts has been a subject that many conflict scholars have debated on. In most cases, religion has been considered a trigger factor in many of the conflicts throughout the world. Rather than being considered as a main cause, it has been used also as a mobilizing agent in some of the conflicts in Africa. Religion has been used as a means of identity, which is very important to the individual and the society at large. Thus it often happens that a threat to one’s religious belief more often than not triggers a violent outburst. Religion has been found to be used both constructively and destructively and as such used as a motivational factor. Due to this, the relationship between religion as a factor or cause of conflict and conflict in itself should be well researched so as to enable a clear understanding of it. Religion touches upon the deepest levels of identity. It can mobilize people for war, but also for lasting peace. 

This clearly means that religion in many parts of the world is contributing to violent conflict, although exaggerated in many cases (Smock, 2006). But, religion is a source not only of intolerance, human rights violations, and extremist violence, but also of non-violent conflict transformation, the defense of human rights, integrity in government, and reconciliation and stability in divided societies (Rasul, 2009).

Traditionally, religion in Africa has been an individual and collective source of meaning, hope, comfort and deliverance. However, despite the high social relevance of religion in Africa and the averred intense religiosity of Africans, a number of hypotheses still connect religion to conflict in the continent. Religion appears to be associated with conflict in many parts of the world including Africa although concerns have heightened about the sustained violent conflicts in Africa (Essien, 2014).

On the other hand, there are also opportunities to employ the assets of religious leaders and religious institutions to promote peace (Smock. 2006). For instance, the role of Christianity for the enforcement of Truth and Reconciliation Council; peace processes in Mozambique, Nigeria, south Sudan, Kenya and others can be good examples to resolve conflicts. But, this paper gives emphasis for the case of Kenya election violence and conflict management with the help of religious institutions.

The violence that erupted in Kenya in late December 2007 and January 2008 following the disputed 2007 presidential election results was one of the most violent and destructive periods in the country’s history. It is estimated that 1,300 lives were lost as a direct result of the violence and conservative figures estimate that 350,000 people were internally displaced (Ngari. 2012). To resolve the election violence a number of groups and institutions were participated from local to international level. Among  the groups involved in managing conflicts are religious based organizations (Leremore, Kahara& Absalom, 2014). Therefore, this paper focused on the positive role of religion in conflict which is its resolution.


There are numerous definitions of religion by different scholars. The most popular of these definitions is that ‘religion is the belief in a god or gods’ and ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a God or gods.’ However, scholars from different fields such as sociology, anthropology, philosophy have expanded on the definition of religion. Even though there are numerous definitions of religion as stated above, only few shall be stated here.

According to Edward B Tylor in his work Primitive Culture “Religion is the belief in Spiritual Beings.” James George Frazer said that "By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life." 

Durkheim, a sociologist, in his book The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, defined religion as a "unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things". By sacred things he meant things "set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them". Sacred things are not, however, limited to gods or spirits.On the contrary, a sacred thing can be "a rock, a tree, a spring, a pebble, a piece of wood, a house, in a word, anything can be sacred". Religious beliefs, myths, dogmas and legends are the representations that express the nature of these sacred things, and the virtues and powers which are attributed to them.

In The Varieties of Religious Experience William James wrote that "Religion is the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine." For Paul Tillich, "Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary, and a concern that in itself provides the answer to the question of the meaning of our existence." 

Clifford Geertz in Religion as a Cultural System said that "Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, persuasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A sociologist, Thomas F. O'Dea, maintained in his work The Sociology of Religion that "Religion, like culture, is a symbolic transformation of experience." According to Catherine L. Albanese, "Religion is a system of symbols (creed, code, cultus) by means of which people (a community) orient themselves in the world with reference to both ordinary and extraordinary powers, meanings, and values." For Frederick Streng "Religion is a means to ultimate transformation." But for Joseph Adler “Religion is a means of ultimate transformation and/or orientation.”

In essence, a religious tradition has at least three essential elements, each handed down and developed in the multitude of ways traditions transmit. One element is a mythic, philosophical, or theological cosmology defining the fundamental structures and limits of the world and forming the basic ways in which cultures and individuals imagine how things are and what they mean. A second essential element of religion is ritual. Rituals are a finite set of repeatable and symbolizable actions that epitomize things a tradition takes to be crucial to defining the normative human place in the cosmos. Early layers of ritual epitomize the hunt, nurturing of agricultural fertility, acknowledgment of political authority (worship of gods as lords), acts of commitment to other individuals, and so forth. The third essential element is that traditions have some conception and practical procedures for fundamental transformation aimed to relate persons harmoniously to the normative cosmological elements, a path of spiritual perfection. In theisms this usually means salvation, a right relation to God. In Buddhism it means transformative enlightenment about the truth of change and suchness (Neville 2010).

Forms of Religion


Christianity is one of three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions. Abrahamic religions trace their origin to Abraham, who is a figure in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Qur’an. Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as they appear in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Christianity emerged during the First Century C.E., initially as a sect that grew out of Judaism. In the centuries that followed, diverse interpretations and practices developed so that, today, there are many different groups that follow the teachings of Jesus and fall under the umbrella of Christianity. Major branches in Christianity are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism. For Christians, Jesus is: the Son of God and Messiah as prophesized in the Hebrew scriptures; the savior of humanity; and is considered both fully human and fully divine. Christianity also teaches that Jesus’ death and resurrection paved the way for humans to overcome sin and be reconciled with God. The way Jesus lived his life serves as a model for Christians; together with scripture, especially the New Testament and the Ten Commandments, his life serves as the basis for Christian morality. The cross is a symbol of the death of Jesus, and how he overcame death and sin. Christianity is currently the largest and most practiced religion in the world.  


Islam is one of three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions. Abrahamic religions trace their origin to Abraham, who is a figure in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Qur’an. There is great diversity within Islam. It is the second-largest religion in the world today, and its followers are known as Muslims. The word Muslim means “One who submits to God” and Islam means “submission,” referring to the complete surrender to God, Allah (Arabic). The holy text of Islam is called the Qur’an, which Muslims believe was revealed to Muhammad (who lived in the seventh century) as the direct words of God. Muhammad is considered the Messenger and the final Prophet of God (others include Moses, Elijah and Jesus). The Five Pillars of Islam are its most fundamental beliefs and practices: belief in the Oneness of God and belief that Muhammad is His last messenger; ritual prayer five times a day; concern for and almsgiving to the needy; self-purification through fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj) in one’s lifetime by those who are able. Many Muslims keep a halal diet and pray five times a day facing the direction of Mecca. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, and it is believed that Muhammad designated it as the holy city of Islam. 


Hinduism is generally considered the world’s oldest organized religion, and is the third largest religion in the world. Many forms of Hinduism recognize a single major deity, Brahman, and see a variety of gods and goddesses as expressions of a Supreme God that can all be worshipped in many different ways. Therefore, Hinduism is considered by some to be monotheistic, and by others to be polytheistic. Unlike many religions, Hinduism does not attribute its foundations to a single individual or text, but rather acknowledges its variety of influences, possibly dating as far back as prehistoric times in the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism also does not have a single theology, or central religious organization or declaration of faith. It teaches that no particular religion has exclusive rights to salvation; rather, it views all genuine religious paths as facets of God. Hinduism is largely driven by a vast and rich scriptural body which has been developed throughout its history. Of these texts, the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Tantras hold the most authority for most Hindus. Central ideas in Hinduism include Dharma (ethics and duties), Karma (law of cause and effect), Samsara (the ongoing reincarnation cycle of life, death and rebirth) and Moksha (the release from Samsara). In some practices of Hinduism, worship is very important, ranging from daily prayer rituals to ceremonial worship or puja. In addition, many Hindus maintain vegetarian diets, often derived from one of its core principles, ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence. 


Each belief system and non-belief system in this category is distinct from each other. They are perhaps similar in that in each group, individuals are not attached to any religious practice, belief or culture, and members of these groups are unified in the lack of relationship to a higher power or scripture. Many people cross-identify within these groups, and as such, demographic research does not usually differentiate between these different groups of respondents. Often, agnostics end up being classified in the same category as atheists and/or other non-religious people. 

Atheism is the absence of belief in any God, gods or spiritual beings. Atheists don't use God to explain the existence of the universe, and believe that humans can – and do – establish moral codes to live by without the aid of Gods or scriptures. Many atheists are also secularists, and are not supportive of any special treatment given by the state to those adhering to an organized religion. However, it is possible to be both atheist and an adherent of a religious tradition. Many Buddhists identify as such, as do some adherents of other traditions like Humanistic Judaism and Non-Realism or Christian Atheism.

Agnosticism is the view that the existence or non-existence of God or any deity, and other religious and metaphysical claims, are unknown and/or unknowable. Further, agnostics are generally committed to the idea of “not knowing.”

Non-Religiousness is the lack of religious principles or practices, and being uninvolved with religious matters. World views and values of the non-religious are generally derived from epistemological systems with no religious affiliation. 

Secularism is primarily based in belief in the separation of church and state. Most secularists find religious schools problematic. Secularists support the right of individuals to have a religious faith, and are entirely opposed to discrimination against people because of their religious, or nonreligious, beliefs. While most secularists are atheists, some are believers in a faith. Secularists in the UK stress that privileges should not be afforded to religious individuals and entities, and call for, among other things, the elimination of representation of religion in Parliament (i.e. bishops) and the disestablishment of the Church of England. Additionally, UK secularists believe that laws should not prohibit reasonable but strong criticism of religions or religion in general.


Buddhism is a Dharmic (referring to duty, or the opportunity to act virtuously), non-theistic religion that follows the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha or the “Awakened One.” Buddhism originated in the Indian subcontinent about 2600 years ago and spread into Asia and Eastern Europe after the passing of the Buddha. There are many branches of Buddhism, including Mahayana Buddhism, Southern or Theravada Buddhism, Eastern or Chinese Buddhism and Northern or Tibetan Buddhism. The main Buddhist texts, interpreted differently by followers of different branches, are: the P li Canon (which includes rules for discipline, discourses and philosophy), Mahayana Sutras (original teachings of the Buddha), and the Dhammapada (Buddha’s direct scriptures). Among the doctrines of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths. These truths are: all living beings (people, animals) suffer; the cause of suffering is selfish desire; one can stop the suffering; and the way to stop the suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path (guidelines stated by the Buddha for leading a righteous life). Another guiding principle in Buddhism is called the Middle Way, which suggests that life is to be lived in moderation without extremes, avoiding harm to others while cultivating good-will toward all. Many Buddhists are vegetarians, and believe in reincarnation. 

Chinese Traditional Religions  

Chinese Traditional Religions refers to a diverse and complex collection of many religious and philosophical traditions, including Chinese Folk Religion, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, which have been in existence for much of China’s history. For many religious Chinese, these traditions combine to form a composite religious culture and worldview.

Chinese Folk Religion refers to the local, tribal religious beliefs and practices that have existed in China for thousands of years. They vary widely among followers and may include beliefs in mythical figures and various gods and goddesses, ancestor veneration and communication with celestial bodies and animals, in addition to a wide range of other beliefs. 

Taoism took shape as a distinct tradition around 550 B.C.E. It is believed to be founded by Lao Zi, who authored the Tao-te-Ching, a central text for Taoist thought. The “Tao” is generally translated into “the path” or “the way,” and refers to a particular rightful way of living one’s life. In Taoism, several concepts are often emphasized. These include wuwei (”without action,” a term that signifies knowing when to act and when not to act, in accordance with natural forces) and opposition, the idea that everything is composed of opposing forces (hot and cold, high and low, yin and yang), which must be balanced. Through the ages, Taoism has involved god and ancestor worship as well as alchemy and medicine-making. Ultimately, however, the goal of the Taoist believer is to harmonize the self with the Tao, or “path.” 

Confucianism was also founded in approximately 550 B.C.E., by Chinese philosopher Kong Qiu (Confucius) but did not become an established tradition until the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E. Confucius believed the “ultimate reality” was beyond human comprehension. Therefore, Confucianism has no deities or teachings about the afterlife and instead urges individuals to concentrate on doing the right thing in this life. It emphasizes learning from the past, humanness, filial piety (respect for parents and ancestors), honesty, reciprocity, righteousness and loyalty, among other elements.  

Confucius believed in the sacredness of daily rituals (the routines of everyday life) as a way to unite people and strengthen the community, and therefore shaping rituals is central to the Confucian system.Buddhism is also practiced widely in China.


Shinto is the ancient, native religion of Japan, and often considered a type of animism (the belief that many beings, living or non-living, have souls) or shamanic tradition. Shinto obtained its name from the combination of Chinese words “shin” and “tao” meaning “The Way of the Gods.” There are several types of Shinto, including Shrine, Sect, Folk and State Shinto, which focus on different aspects of the tradition. Shinto followers worship the kami, who are localized gods or spiritual beings that reside in particular places, natural processes, or objects such as the sun, lakes, or shrines. Shinto does not have a specific set of prayers, holy buildings or holy people/kami that takes precedence over any other. Many Shinto venerate Ameratsu, the sun kami, and there are certain texts that while not sacred, have a type of “privileged” status. Many Japanese people don't think of Shinto specifically as a religion, but more as an aspect of Japanese life. At the end of World War II, Japanese leaders declared that Shinto was no longer the state religion of Japan, but many people still practice its rites and rituals. Conversely, since Shinto was once the state religion, many Japanese citizens are counted as Shinto though they do not practice. In addition, Shinto is often practiced alongside other religions like Buddhism or Confucianism, making the number of its followers difficult to estimate.  


Sikhism originated in Northern India in the 15th century. The teachings of Guru Nanak (the religion’s founder) and of nine other gurus (enlightened leaders), as well as its holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib, are central to the tradition. The word “Sikh” originates from a Sanskrit root which translates into “disciple” or “learning.” Thus, Sikhs focus on attaining salvation through the continual learning of God by way of personal meditation and rightful living. The central messages of Sikhism are that there is one God (who is the same for all religions); that life should focus on the dedication and remembrance of God at all times; that Sikhs should be generous to the less fortunate and serve others; that the human race is equal regardless of gender or race; and that truthful living that renounces worldly temptations and sins should be sought. Some Sikhs may choose to make a unique form of commitment called Amrit, which includes observing special rules, such as wearing the five articles of faith, or the five K’s. These are: (1) Kesh (hair): Leave hair uncut; (2) Khanga (comb): Keep a comb in the hair, representing cleanliness; (3) Kirpan (sword, and also a combination of the Punjabi words kirpa which means an act of kindness, and aan which means honor): Wear a steel sword, a constant reminder of the duty to seek justice and fight oppression; (4) Kara (iron bracelet): Wear a bracelet that acts like a wedding ring, indicating the bond between God and the wearer; and (5) Kachera (long underpants): Wear a specific undergarment signifying self-discipline. Many Sikh men and women wear a turban to cover their long hair. Sikh temples are called gurdwaras.  


Judaism is the earliest of the three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions. Abrahamic religions trace their origin to Abraham, who is a figure in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), New Testament and the Qur’an. Tradition teaches that the origins of Judaism are found in the covenant (divine agreement) between Abraham and God, dated to 2000 B.C.E. There is a wide spectrum of observance among contemporary Jews, generally described as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist. The central sources of authority in Judaism are both the writings and traditions. Judaism also has a rich history that is central to its traditions and heritage. One of its prominent beliefs is that there is one omnipotent, omniscient creator God and that, according to tradition, God made a covenant with the Jewish people to whom He gave commandments and laws to follow. These laws are recorded in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), which was given to Moses, who brought the Jews out of slavery from Egypt) and the Talmud. Many Jews place an emphasis on the Jewish religion as a way of life and community. Core values include TikkunOlam (repairing the world), Tzedakah (charity), peace, family, community, justice, and living life in a holy manner. A Jewish temple is called a synagogue. Many Jews also keep a kosher diet.And many others.

Religious institutions frequently have a special relationship with the affected populations that can dampen conflict drivers, strengthening conflict mitigation efforts, or both. That means, religious leaders and institutions are often considered trustworthy and credible by the local population due to their established roles in their respective communities. In addition, religious institutions may have a shared and respected set of values with different sides of the conflict. Values, including forgiveness and reconciliation, in religious texts and teachings can inspire communities to change attitudes and actions at a basic level and transform worldviews at a deeper level to understand “others” in the conflict positively.


Conflict refers to some form of friction, disagreement, or discord  arising within a group when the beliefs or actions of one or more members of the group are either resisted by or unacceptable to one or more members of another group. Conflict can be about a situation or a type of behavior.

Michael Nicholson (2006) defines conflict as an activity which takes place when individuals or groups wish to carry out mutually inconsistent acts concerning their wants, needs or obligations. It may also be defined as a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns. Manifestations of conflict behavior starts with disagreement, and followed by verbal abuse and interference. Conflicts can occur between individuals, groups and organizations. Examples are quarrels between friends or family members, labour strikes, competitive sports, or war. 

First is, Content conflict is where individuals disagree about how to deal with a certain issue or task. Second, Relational conflict is where individuals disagree about one another. It stems out of interpersonal incompatibility. Third, Process conflict refers to disagreement over the groups approach to a particular task 

According to scholars, content conflict can be beneficial, increasing motivation and stimulating discussion, whereas relational and process conflict decreases performance, loyalty satisfaction and commitment, and causes individuals to be irritable, negative and suspicious. An occasional conflict within a group such as in a school (ALUTA) may keep its leaders alert and its policies up to date. As Sandole (1998) says, “Conflict is a fundamental human and social trait. A completely conflict free harmonious society is impossible.”

Forms of Conflict

Non-violent Conflicts 

Absence of violence does not automatically mean an absence of conflict. Conflicting interests can be pursued without violence or coercion. When the conflict already exists this means only an absence of violent methods employed by parties in their struggle to resolve their incompatible differences over issues that are of national relevance for them. Parties do not use force against each other. Yet, the existence of non-violent conflict must be noticed and recognized by the outside world, as well as at least by one of the involved parties. In addition, it should be stressed that violent escalation of every conflict evolves from a non-violent phase of the conflict. Nonviolent conflict has been termed by Sandole (1998) as “manifest conflict process (MCP)” and defined as a situation in which at least two parties, or their representatives, try to pursue their perceptions of mutually incompatible goals by undermining, directly or indirectly, each other's goal-seeking capability. A conflict cannot be detected without existence of some visible signs that show certain position difference or interest opposition between two states over certain commodity. Sometimes conditions for conflict exist, but the parties are not pursuing an overt strategy to achieve their goals. However, at least one party has to have positional differences articulated in some form of demands, and the other party shall be aware of such demands.

Violent Conflicts 

Conflicts enters a violent phase when parties go beyond seeking to attain their goals peacefully, and try to dominate, damage or destroy the opposing parties’ ability to pursue their own interests. For Davies (1973: 251) the existence of frustration of substantive (physical, social-affectional, self-esteem, and self-actualization) or implemental needs (security, knowledge, and power) is the essential condition for one non-violent conflict to escalate into violent: “Violence as a response is produced when certain innate needs or demands are deeply frustrated.” In political conflict analysis the use of force, physical damages and human casualties are the characteristics of a violent conflict. Battle-related human casualties thresholds are commonly used to define violent conflict, particularly in respect of war. An “aggressive manifest conflict process (AMPC)” is the term that Sandole (1998) uses to describe violent conflict, which, according to his definition represents: 

“… a situation in which at least two parties, or their representatives, attempt to pursue their perceptions of mutually incompatible goals by physically damaging or destroying the property and high-value symbols of one another (e.g., religious shrines, national monuments); and/or psychologically or physically injuring, destroying, or otherwise forcibly eliminating one another.” 

In the recently published Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation, Smith (2005: 3), analyzing trends and causes of violent conflicts, employs the term “armed conflicts” when speaking about violent disputes, and defines it as: “… open, armed clashes between two or more centrally organised parties, with continuity between the clashes, in disputes about power over government and territory.”


Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. Conflict resolution can be defined as the informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute. The conflict resolution approaches also point out strategies that could be employed to find an exit from the conflict’s destroying dynamic and that aim toward achieving satisfying solution for all parties involved (Burton 1968). A number of common cognitive and emotional traps, many of them unconscious, can exacerbate conflict and contribute to the need for conflict resolution:

  1. Self-serving fairness interpretations. Rather than deciding what’s fair from a position of neutrality, we interpret what would be most fair to us, then justify this preference on the bases of fairness. For example, department heads are likely to each think they deserve the lion’s share of the annual budget. Disagreements about what’s fairlead to clashes.
  2. Overconfidence. We tend to be overconfident in our judgments, a tendency that leads us to unrealistic expectations. Disputants are likely to be overconfident about their odds of winning a lawsuit, for instance, an error that can lead them to shun a negotiated settlement that would save them time and money.
  3. Escalation of commitment. Whether negotiators are dealing with a labor strike, a merger, or an argument with a colleague, they are likely to irrationally escalate their commitment to their chosen course of action, long after it has proven useful. We desperately try to recoup our past investments in a dispute (such as money spent on legal fees), failing to recognize that such “sunk costs” should play no role in our decisions about the future.
  4. Conflict avoidance. Because negative emotions cause us discomfort and distress, we may try to tamp them down, hoping that our feelings will dissipate with time. In fact, conflict tends to become more entrenched, and parties have a greater need for conflict resolution when they avoid dealing with their strong emotions. Given these and other pitfalls, how can you set up a constructive conflict resolution process when dealing with conflict at work and other realms? Conflicts can be resolved in a variety of ways, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation.
  5. Negotiation. In conflict resolution, you can and should draw on the same principles of collaborative negotiation that you use in dealmaking. For example, you should aim to explore the interests underlying parties’ positions, such as a desire to resolve a dispute without attracting negative publicity or to repair a damaged business relationship. In addition, determine your best alternative to a negotiated agreement—what you will do if you fail to reach an agreement, such as finding a new partner or filing a lawsuit. By brainstorming options and looking for tradeoffs across issues, you may be able to negotiate a satisfactory outcome to your dispute without the aid of outside parties.
  6. Mediation. In mediation, disputants enlist a trained, neutral third party to help them come to a consensus. Rather than imposing a solution, a professional mediator encourages disputants to explore the interests underlying their positions. Working with parties both together and separately, mediators seek to help them discover a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding.
  7. Arbitration. In arbitration, which can resemble a court trial, a neutral third party serves as a judge who makes decisions to end the dispute. The arbitrator listens to the arguments and evidence presented by each side, then renders a binding and often confidential decision. Although disputants typically cannot appeal an arbitrator’s decision, they can negotiate most aspects of the arbitration process, including whether lawyers will be present and which standards of evidence will be used.
  8. Litigation. In civil litigation, a defendant and a plaintiff face off before either a judge or a judge and jury, who weigh the evidence and make a ruling. Information presented in hearings and trials usually enters the public record. Lawyers typically dominate litigation, which often ends in a negotiated settlement during the pretrial period.

In general, it makes sense to start off less-expensive, less-formal conflict resolution procedures, such as negotiation and mediation, before making the larger commitments of money and time that arbitration and litigation often demand. Conflict-resolution training can further enhance your ability to negotiate satisfactory resolutions to your disputes.


For years now, it is evident from researches that the church and other religious institutions have been playing formidable roles in resolving conflicts and building peace in the society. There are numerous examples to this. A good example is the Kenya violence cited in the introduction. Some of these roles come in form of dialogue between religions in a particular place. From this it becomes undeniable that even though religion is seen as a source of conflict, religion is indeed a resource for peace.

Religion plays its role in conflict resolution through the following ways:

Encouragement for Mutual Understanding

Religious leaders are also uniquely positioned to use their moral authority and influence to encourage mutual understanding within and between protagonists. Thus, serious consideration should always be given to their inclusion in formal peace processes. Not only does their influence provide the necessary moral authority that is sometimes missing and enhanced capacity for dealing with all kinds of religious issues that may arise in such negotiations, but their often-unrivalled influence at grassroots level can be useful in ensuring that any political settlement which emerges will be lasting. Certainly the irrepressible and influential role played by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his native South Africa and the many conflicts around the world remains indelible.

The Provision of Social Cohesion

Religious communities can also provide social cohesion in the aftermath of violent conflict. They may also provide spiritual support to help people face agonizing pain and suffering with some prospect for the kind of forgiveness that can break the cycle of revenge. Thus, it can be argued that more victimized societies find solace and comfort in dealing with religious institutions than secular ones. Religious networks generally provide the largest social infrastructure for human care, as depicted by the presence of churches, mosques, temples and other religious structures in virtually every village. Invariably, such communities and networks are committed to collaborative work for justice and peace, and they are generally dedicated structures that allow for such collaboration. It can be summed up that religious actors, communities and their institutions can play a significant role in the resolution of intractable conflicts in the contemporary world.

Encouraging a Community-Based Dialogue 

Dialogue is the process that involves sincere interactions through which individuals pay attention deeply to each other in order to change from what they have learnt. Every individual makes a solemn effort to listen to the others’ concern into their own picture, whether there is a disagreement or not. The individuals do not conceal their identities, but they distinguish the valid claims of the other humans that they will act differently towards each other. Friendly conversation with the conflicting parties is the main element of dialogue. Enhancing dialogue in the society will make the people aware of the best ways to solve conflicts and respect other individuals in the society despite their reservations. 

This method thus calls the society and every individual to make efforts in agreeing with one another on the past violent events, bringing some sense of justice, human rights, and security. Justice and peace can only be achieved through endorsing processes that are meant to gaining interethnic, intra ethnic and intercommunity dialogues (Hertog 1996). This will in turn build harmony in the clans and ethnic communities that are in conflict. This can only be achieved if efforts are put in place to promote reconciliation and peace so as to avoid future happenings like previous experiences.

Organizing Peace-building Seminars and Workshops

Religious institutions should organize seminars and workshops in the area of peace building. Various approaches are employed to prevent conflicts. Commonly, workshop and seminars have been held to galvanize co-ethnics to embrace peace. Workshops on peace building are important tools that helps avoid conflict and maintain peace because during such workshops, the participants are provided with analytical and conceptual context of reconciliation, peace building, case studies, and exercises that provoke individual’s knowledge as well as giving them the chance for hands-on application. Similarly, peace building resources and exercises are given the participating individuals to give them the contextual information and building blocks to challenge and provide a creative learning environment for participants. According to Jekobsen (2012) strengthening local capacities for peace building in the society through peace building workshops has attained various real positive accomplishments, mainly in the field of political, cultural, institution building, and inter-ethnic discussion concentrating on gender, cultural and ethnic differences, based on the principle of ‘Do no Harm’. 

The ability to model good conflict resolution skills is impacted during peace building workshops. Key qualities for effective peace builders impacted in seminars and workshops include adaptability, non-defensiveness, empathy and creativity. Adaptability is the capacity to change directions throughout training and dig into concerns which participants have rather than harshly following the self-planned workshop schedule. Non-defensive is the ability to listen to the participants important comments without self-defense of your actions when you are faced with criticism (Assefa & Wachira 1996).

Further, peace building workshops are avenues for trust building. Trust-building involves letting the participants lower their inhibitions and getting to know each other. In combination with the allowed rules on hand for negotiation, trust building exercises are important elements if the conflict partakers are from groups on conflicting sides. When the participants fear that they will be punished or disliked for sharing their views, they will fail in sharing their views leading to poor communication or insightful communication. Thus, the purpose of peace building workshops is to help participants comprehend the difficulty of reconciliation, to come up with negotiations that come close to reconciliation but not directly reconciling groups or people. Peace building exercises involves sharing experiences of the problems of resolution, psychological and religious scopes of programmatic considerations and reconciliation.

Upholding Social Support and Counselling

This involves acts of helping performed by individuals, with an aim of reconciling, healing, guiding, nurturing, and sustaining the victims with concerns and troubles that come up out of daily communication and ultimate concerns. Religious leaders and community leaders, and the community at large should show interest in this. The purpose of the support and counsellinginvolves bringing relief to individuals suffering and to inspire human agency. 86 persons affected by armed conflict in the 

According to Olawale&Yemisi (2012), such support andcounselling normally focus on five strands namely: healing, sustain, guiding, reconciling and nurturing. 

  1. Healing: this is a function carried out by religious leaders with the purpose of overcoming impairment by reestablishing the individual to become whole again and leading them to be better compared to their previous situation. 
  2. Sustaining: assisting hurting individuals to bear and transcend the condition in which renewal to their previous state from their condition is not possible or seems improbable. 
  3. Guiding: helping the perplexed individuals in making the correct choices amongst different courses of thought and action, where the choices are seen to distress the current and the forthcoming state of individual wholeness. 
  4. Reconciling: the act of restoring the broken relationships between two conflicting parties or between an individual and God. In the history, reconciliation has been based on two factors; discipline and forgiveness. 
  5. Nurturing: allowing individuals to grow their potentialities, thorough out their lives regardless of the peaks, plateaus, and valleys. The main pastoral care functions are nurturing and guiding.

Adoption of a Faith-Based Approach

Douglas Johnston, in his article ‘Faith-based Organisations: The Religious Dimension to Peacebuilding’, explores what he termed “the potential of the faith-based approaches to conflict prevention and transformation.” He posited that faith-based approaches represent a viable and – more often than not – effective alternative, as opposed to traditional approaches. Such approaches may take the form of interventions by outside agencies and organisations rooted in religious traditions, or the local religious bodies themselves, “acting with moral authority they possess to cool tempers and promote reconciliation.” This may also take the form of religious leaders bridging the gap between faiths and engaging in dialogue, with the view to developing trust and building strong relationships to enable joint collaboration in addressing common problems.


It is a highlighted in this paper that religion can both encourage conflict and build peace, reflecting growing evidence that religious forces can play a constructive role in helping to resolve conflicts. Scholars like John Paul Lederach has indicated that trying to assume that conflict can be avoided is completely fallacious. Rather, there is need to recognize that conflict is a natural outgrowth of human interaction, and there are relatively effective ways of managing conflict. With respect to our present interest, interfaith dialogue would seem an important, often proactive means of minimizing conflict through addressing ignorance and distrust. At its core, inter-religious dialogue brings together those of different faiths for conversation. Dialogue can take a range of forms and have a variety of goals. Through discussions, groups and individuals may come to a better understanding of other faith traditions and of the many points of agreement that likely exist between them. 

Works Cited

Assefa, H. &Wachira, G. (1996).Peacemaking and Democratisation in Africa: Theoretical Perspectives and Church Initiatives. Nairobi: East African Education Press.

Burton, John W. (1968), “Systems, states, diplomacy and rules”, Cambridge. 

Burton, John W. (1990) (ed.), “Conflict: human needs theory“, London.

Davies, James D. (1973),”Aggression, Violence, Revolution, and War”, in Jeanne N. Knutson (ed.), Handbook of Political Psychology, San Francisco.

Essien, Essien D. (2014). “Ethical Evaluation of African Religiosity amidst Violent Conflict and Crisis in Africa in Contemporary Time”, Department of Religious and Cultural Studies Faculty of Arts & Humanities University of UyoAkwaIbom State.

Hertog, Katrien (2010). The Complex Reality of Religious Peacebuilding: Conceptual Contributions and Critical Analysis. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Jakobsen, P. V. (2012). Nordic Approaches to Peace Operations: A New Model in the Making. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Olawale, S.K., Ojo, &Yemisi, M. (2012).The Roles of Religious Education to Peace, Security and Sustainable Development in Nigeria.IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3, 1-5.

Rasul, Amina. (2009). “The Role of Religion in Peace Making”, Presented at the CSID 10th Annual Conference, May 5th. 

Sandole, Dennis (1998),”A comprehensive mapping of conflict and conflict resolution: a three pillar approach“, in Peace and Conflict Studies, 5/2. 

Smith, Dan (2005), “Trends and causes of armed conflict”, in David Bloomfeld/Martina Fischer/Beatrix Schmelzle (eds), Berghof handbook for conflict transformation, Berlin. 

Smock, David R. (2006).Religious Contributions to Peacemaking: When Religion Brings Peace, Not War. United States institute of peace.

Smock, David. (2008). ‘Religion in World Affairs Its Role in Conflict and Peace”, Special Report, United States Institute of Peace.

Svensson, I. (2014). International Mediation Bias and Peacemaking: Taking Sides in Civil Wars. New York: Routledge.

Tenaw, Aemro. (2019). The Role of Religious Institutions for Conflict Management: Experience of National Council of Churches of Kenya.International Journal of Humanities, Art and Social Studies (IJHAS), Vol. 3, No.1.

Warurii, F.K. (2015). Inter-ethnic conflicts: Trends, causes, effects and interventions in Rumuruti Division of Laikipia County, Kenya (1963 – 2010).

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