Religion, politics and conflicts
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 number of armed conflicts in which religion plays a role has nearly doubled in the last 40 years – from one third in 1975 to almost two-thirds in 2015. The main cause of these conflicts is not religion per se, but rather the clash of different world views. That is why Switzerland strives to integrate politically active people with different world views and a willingness to engage in dialogue in its peace policy.
In particular, influential individuals who hold political office or have de facto political responsibilities are included in the search for solutions to conflict. The focus of discussions is not on world views or principles but on concrete, practical solutions for peaceful coexistence, irrespective of religion and world view. The underlying goal is not to reconcile conflicting ideologies but rather to create and promote trust between and within groups through concrete cooperation.
In its projects in the thematic area of religion, politics and conflicts, Switzerland works closely with university institutions, foundations, religious communities and civil society.
In cooperation with the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies of Thailand's Mahidol University and the Center for Security Studies of the ETH Zurich, Switzerland launched a dialogue between Buddhist leaders in Thailand. The aim is to persuade influential representatives of the Buddhist community to take part in peace efforts in the restive south of Thailand.
Together with the Al Mouna community centre in the capital, N'Djamena, Switzerland is setting up an early warning system to identify and respond to incipient tensions within and among the different religious communities. Volunteers between the ages of 20 and 40 involved in the project learn to identify and prevent potential conflict and to settle conflicts without resorting to violence. The project is supported by the Center for Security Studies of the ETH Zurich and the Cordoba Foundation of Geneva.
Switzerland and the Cordoba Foundation support a dialogue project in Morocco which addresses women's role in society. In a country where Islamic and secular forces are at odds, the different interpretations of the place of women in the family and in the private and public spheres is among the most contested political issues.
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.