ACCORD Senior Researcher, Professor Jannie Malan, has had his presentation on religion, conflict and peace extremely well received at the Oxford Round Table Conference on Religion held between 28 July and 1 August 2013 at Brasenose College in the University of Oxford, UK. The presentation, based on Malan’s current research focus on the reasons why religious people cause conflict and how they can prevent and resolve the same.
The Oxford Round Table is an international educational organisation whose purpose is to promote education, art, science, religion and charity. It seeks to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of contemporary issues that affect the public good in all its various forms and ramifications.
Professor Malan participated in the conference, as part of a select group of about 40 academics and clerics. More than half of the participants, representing ten countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, UK and the United States of America), were professors, and of the 30 academics attending, 40% were women. The focus of the conference was not on ancient doctrine, but on exploring and discussing how religion impacts on lives in the present day.
Malan was commended for thoughtfully and carefully handling very complex issues, among them supposed religious certainties, perceived superiorities (socio-cultural, religious and racial), and divisive own-groupishness. His frank discussion and sharing of examples from South Africa, taken both from the apartheid conflict of the past and the changed structures and changing attitudes of the present, was appreciated. Recommendations put forward by Malan, which are based on a research paper that he is writing, were regarded as very appropriate. These included, among others:
- acknowledging that the essence of religion lies in inner experience and change, not in outward observance;
- encouraging religious leaders and members to be more honest and modest about their traditions;
- promoting open-minded understanding and dialoguing; and
- using conflict-resolving methods that penetrate to underlying injustice instead of preaching mere pacifism.
The paper presented at the conference will be submitted for consideration for publication in the Forum of the Oxford Round Table.
Malan aims to complete and submit his research paper, provisionally entitled ‘External religion and conflict, or internal religion and coexistence?’ to ACCORD for publication later this year. ACCORD regards the theme as very important and fitting within its conflict resolution mission, since religion is not only often a complicating factor in a conflict, but can also be a constructive factor.