Religion, politics and conflicts

A group of demonstrators.
Protests by locals against the construction of a 30m telescope by an international research group on Hawaii's sacred Mauna Kea volcano. © Keystone SDA

Switzerland's peace policy pays particular attention to religion, politics and conflicts. Why? Because over 80% of people worldwide identify with a religion that influences their personal, social and political lives in multiple ways. The clash of different world views and religions can stir up tensions and play a critical role in conflicts.

The proportion of armed conflicts in which religion plays a role has doubled in the last 40 years – from one third in 1975 to two-thirds in 2017. The main cause of these conflicts is not religion per se, but rather the clash between different world views.

The focus is not on dogmas, but on concrete solutions

In its peace policy work, Switzerland takes a neutral stance towards the various religious traditions: rather than focusing on discussing world views and religious principles, it concentrates on finding concrete solutions that lead to the renunciation of violence and allow peaceful coexistence between people of different religions and world views. Cooperation on joint projects on the ground promotes trust-building between and within groups and is a key component of conflict resolution.

Switzerland includes all groups willing to engage in dialogue

Switzerland believes that exclusion from the political process can make young and older people renounce democratic means. It therefore strives to involve all forces in society, including religious-political groups that are willing to engage in dialogue on the shaping of their society and the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts. 

Partnerships and work focus

In its peace policy projects in the thematic area of religion, politics and conflicts, Switzerland works closely with universities, NGOs, religious communities and civil society groups. It is currently supporting peace promotion projects with religious dimensions in Iraq, Israel, Mali, Nigeria and Thailand.

In addition, it promotes professionalisation in the field of religion and mediation through regular training courses (see box) as well as support for specialist and policy-relevant publications.  

Training course

Each year, the Religion, Politics, Conflicts desk of the FDFA's Human Security Division and the Center for Security Studies of the ETH Zurich offer a course, in partnership with the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, on the topic of religion and mediation. The five-day course is aimed at people engaged in peacebuilding and mediation efforts to resolve conflicts
with a religious dimension. At the request of the United Nations, since 2015 the FDFA has also offered this course for UN staff in New York.

Training in Religion and Mediation (PDF, 544.1 kB, English)