ACCORD attended a six-day course on Religion and Mediation course hosted by the Centre for Security Studies, in partnership with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs from 26-31 August 2018 in Murten, Switzerland. The purpose of the course was to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes relevant for mediating in violent political conflicts, where religion plays a role. It applied a broad understanding of mediation to look at how third parties can create supportive spaces for actors in these conflicts to come together to address their differences.
The course was aimed at mediators, peace practitioners, policy makers and others working to address violent political conflicts in contexts where religion has strong relevance. Participants represented countries from all over the world, particularly those in countries where religion-related conflicts are prevalent. Within this setting, the course exposed participants to the global scope of religious-related conflicts taking place all over the world, and the conflict tools that should be applied in addressing these challenges.
Within this context, the course design encompassed a variety of theoretical approaches on religion and mediation. This included lectures on the role of religion in conflict; perspectives on conflict and mediation; conflict analysis tools; unpacking various mediation approaches; as well as examining concepts such as world view challenges and the mediation space. For the most part of the course, participants were put to the task of intense role plays in mediating conflicts. Early in the course, and by means of group work, participants undertook a practical experience in an in-depth conflict analysis on the current conflicts taking place, such as in Sri Lanka, Somalia, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Case studies were also enacted to give a real life experience on the dynamics, issues and actors involved in mediating a conflict. By the end of the course, participants were able to design a mediation strategy to the conflicts that were analysed early in the week.
Participants indicated their increased understanding as well as use of concepts and tools for analysing religion’s role in conflict as well as exposure to a variety of approaches towards mediating and transforming conflicts with religious dimensions.
Participation in this course strengthened ACCORD’s understanding of new concepts that promote conflict; alternative mediation approaches and its entry points; as well as an increased understanding on the role of religion in conflict. These elements will contribute to the design and approaches on policy support, capacity strengthening, mediation and dialogue efforts as well as knowledge production undertaken by ACCORD.