The role of faith communities in conflict transformation and long term development

There is a considerable amount of research on the role of religion in violent conflict, for example, as one of the possible bases for identity formation and mobilization. Yet ‘post-conflict’ periods have been relatively little studied compared to conflicts themselves.

In addition, the specific role of religion in the immediate and longer term aftermath of violent episodes (the return to calm and the process of reconstruction) appears to have been neglected. This will, therefore, be the main focus of our research. However, the role of religion in the conflict(s) under study needs to be understood in order to analyse its role in the aftermath - this has generally been analysed in some depth for many such episodes in the cities of the focus countries, so the intention will be to rely on secondary material to analyse the roots and course of the conflict(s) as far as possible, with empirical work concentrating on the period(s) after the violent episode(s).

Aim of the research

The aim of the project is to analyse the role of religion in the aftermath of recent single or recurrent episodes of violent conflict between religious groups in urban areas in India, Pakistan and Nigeria, to identify the circumstances and ways in which religious leaders and organisations play a role in peace-building, the welfare of those affected, longer term reconstruction, and the rebuilding of social relations. It is hoped that a better understanding of these roles and attitudes will inform actors involved in conflict prevention and transformation processes in the future, including religious organisations, government and political bodies and secular civil society organisations.

Methodological approach

The study will be based on in-depth case studies of urban ‘neighbourhoods’ using mainly qualitative methods. These will have sufficient common design elements to enable comparison between countries. In Nigeria and India, the studies will focus on detailed studies in a limited number of urban neighbourhoods in which there is a concentration of people affected by the violent episodes under study. In Pakistan, violence has taken the form of sporadic attacks on individuals, and so the work will probably not be neighbourhood-based. The country component teams will each select one or two examples of relatively recent violent conflict that is ostensibly inter- or intra-religious. Possible factors to be taken into account include:

  • episodes in which adherents of two faith traditions (religions or sects) were in conflict with each other
  • locations in which life appears to have returned to ‘normal’ relatively quickly/slowly or not at all
  • locations in which religious organisations (within or across the religious divide) appear to have played a significant role in the post-conflict period/have apparently not been important in the aftermath of the violent episode.
  • locations with different political allegiances
  • areas that are homogeneous/heterogeneous with respect to socio-economic characteristics (ethnicity, economic status), political allegiance and/or religious composition
  • locations or episodes where there were gender differences in the experiences and roles during and after the violent episodes.

The research is being undertaken in India, Nigeria and Pakistan between July 2008 and December 2009.

Research team


  • Professor Carole Rakodi,, International Development Department, University of Birmingham
  • Professor Gurharpal Singh,, School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham

Country team leaders

  • Nigeria - Dr Shedrack Best, Centre of Conflict Management and Peace Studies, JOS
  • India - Professor Dipankar Gupta, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Pakistan - Professor Mohammad Waseem, Lahore University of Management Sciences