Meeting with Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer
Duration: 20 minutes
The meeting began discussing the changes that I have made in my research and my plan moving forward. I explained that my intended question is “How is it possible that the representation of churches as a safe place became major sites of massacres during the Rwandan Genocide?” He recommended that I use that interpretivist question as an umbrella question and develop sub-questions as I continue to research. For example, thinking about subjects like relationship between military and the church, economic aspects, and implications of local Rwandan Catholic Churches and its disconnect from Rome. These addition factors can help augment the original question. He also suggested that I not only look at why the shift in meaning for churches existed, but also how did the Catholic Church handle the shift in the function of the Church. Professor Abu-Nimer encouraged me to look into the purification that occurred in Catholic Churches after the genocide in response to Catholic involvement.
We then spoke about where I would begin collecting and researching this question. One of the major places that I plan to collect information is from first-hand accounts, especially testimonies from Catholics. Another source is the official reports and messages from the Vatican. To ensure the verification of these sources through triangulation, Professor Abu-Nimer suggested conducting 2-3 interviews at the Cathedral and the Vatican embassy. He finally said that if I wanted to take my research a step farther I could speak with the Rwandan embassy. I had not considered conducting interviews with the Vatican or Rwandan embassy but speaking to them for sources could provide a more official lens to add to the research.
Moving forward, I will continue to research about the Rwandan genocide and develop sub-questions to supplement my overarching umbrella question. I will also continue reading testimonies from the genocide. During the break between 206 and 306, I will further my knowledge about the overall history and aftereffects of the genocide and the Catholic Church’s influence in it.
 “Genocide Archive Rwanda.” n.d. Accessed December 5, 2019. http://genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw/index.php?title=COLLECTIONS.
“ Genocide Archive Rwanda.” n.d. Accessed December 5, 2019. http://genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw/index.php?title=COLLECTIONS.
I am studying the themes of peace in religious leaders’ rhetoric because I want to understand how the goals and beliefs of peace are manifested in the everyday practices of religious through the rhetoric of religious leaders in order to find out how the manifestation of peace in religion practices have changed overtime (from 1950-present). The object that I am proposing to study with this question is the rhetoric of themes of peace and the actors that construct these representations are religious leaders who are historically, men. Because the majority of actors contributing to the conversation about religious intervention and dialogue about peace are men, there are many groups of people missing from the conversation like women for example.
One primary source that can be used to examine the rhetoric of Catholic leaders is through popes’ homilies. Homilies, speeches, letter, and messages from previous to the current pope are available on the Vatican website, which would allow me to look at the rhetoric used by popes when discussing topics such as peace and conflict.
Another primary source is the Shalom Center, which shows the perspective of Jewish writings and rhetoric surrounding the theme of peace. These letters and documents specifically addressing issues like peace reveal variation in the dialogue between the rhetoric of the Jewish community and the Catholic community.
Both of these sources provide examples of the type of sources that can be used to research this particular question of peace rhetoric, which plays into the dialogue in the international community about religion in peace. I am also planning on examining other sources such as political statements from governments in order to collect a wide variety of perspectives about religious dialogue.
 “Homilies | Francis.” n.d. Accessed November 10, 2019. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies.index.html.
 “War, Peace, & the Jewish Community | The Shalom Center.” n.d. Accessed November 10, 2019. https://theshalomcenter.org/treasury/32.
“Homilies | Francis.” n.d. Accessed November 10, 2019. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies.index.html.
“War, Peace, & the Jewish Community | The Shalom Center.” n.d. Accessed November 10, 2019. https://theshalomcenter.org/treasury/32.
My research question of the small-n neopositivist research is “Why does Christian religious peacebuilding intervention and prevention differ in conflicts within Latin America?”
With this question I want to use Latin America as an area of focus, in order to research how and why religious peacebuilding varies in different countries in Latin America. The dependent variable in this question is type of religious invention in peacebuilding, which would be measured in type of peacemaking method. This would be measured in no involvement, traditional diplomatic efforts, track II peace-making, and field-diplomacy.  These methods to peace making are evaluated and further explained in Luc Reychler’s work.
Primary sources to operationalize the dependent variable would include looking at the Vatican News to follow church news and involvement in Latin America. This information can provide specific news about the involvement of the Catholic Church in Latin America, which has a major presence and role in Latin America. The news can outline different ways that the Catholic Church is becoming involved in affairs within Latin America. Another primary source that would also be used to operationalize the dependent variable would be to look at statements and peacebuilding actions of the secretariat of state in the Vatican. This can outline the overall goals and feelings of the Catholic Church regarding specific aspects of peacebuilding or conflicts, which can be checked with other sources to see the future action of lack of action aligns with statements from the secretariat of state. To see the recent events occurring in Latin America, from a more secular perspective and to see news events that involve other Christian denominations El País is a source that can be used. 
Using each of these sources allows the actions of Christian institutions, especially the Catholic Church, to be tracked and studied in this research.
 Ibid, 20.
 Ibid, 19.
 “Secretariat of State – Index.” n.d. Accessed October 27, 2019. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/index.htm.
 “The Latin American Church Joins Pope’s Appeal for Peace in Syria – Vatican News.” 2018. April 16, 2018. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-04/latin-american-bishops-statements-appeal-peace-syria.html.
 Luzón, Javier Moreno. 2019. “Análisis | ‘Por Dios y por España.’” El País, October 24, 2019, sec. Opinion. https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/10/22/opinion/1571757065_935118.html.
Luzón, Javier Moreno. 2019. “Análisis | ‘Por Dios y por España.’” El País, October 24, 2019, sec. Opinion. https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/10/22/opinion/1571757065_935118.html.
Reychler, Luc. “RELIGION AND CONFLICT.” International Journal of Peace Studies 2, no. 1 (1997): 19-38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45037971.
“Secretariat of State – Index.” n.d. Accessed October 27, 2019. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/index.htm.
“The Latin American Church Joins Pope’s Appeal for Peace in Syria – Vatican News.” 2018. April 16, 2018. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-04/latin-american-bishops-statements-appeal-peace-syria.html.
I am proposing to research religious institutions and peacebuilding because I want to find out what explains what motivates religious actors to become involved in the peacebuilding process in order to help my reader understand whether and to what degree religious actors should become involved in conflicts.
Research question: What explains the variation in the involvement of religious institutions in peacebuilding efforts?
- “Global Totals of religious populations by religion”
This first source shows the percentage of religious within the population of every religion in the world and also shows the percentage of the world population that number constitutes. This source can be used to understand the influence that religions have in the world in regard to the percentage of the world population. This number can be expanded to see the percent population within a particular country or region as well. This information is an important dependent variable to see if there is a statistically relevant relationship between conflicts and percentage of religions. A limitation to this source is that it only looks at the percent of religious globally and not by country.
- “Religious Conflict by Country”
This statistical data shows countries that have experienced religious conflict. It looks at the religious freedom index, governmental restriction index, religious conflict, state religion, and other factors. Using this data with the data about the percentage of the religious within populations, research can be done to see if correlation exists between the two statistics. I also want to specifically look at the state religion where the conflicts are occurring (whether a state is a theocracy or if the state has a national religion). This information will help identify important dependent variables within religious conflicts (like state religion, places where religious conflicts occur, and others), but other statistical sources are needed to show similar evidence about non-religious conflicts. The combination of religious and secular conflicts will give a wider variation to understand the complexity of conflicts. This source is limited because it only considers religious conflicts.
Overall, this research would compare conflict between countries and within the same country to gain a diverse set of conflicts.
Boston University. Religious Conflict by Country. 2015. Distributed by the Institute of Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. https://libguides.webster.edu/data/chicago.
Boston University. Global Totals of Religious Populations by Religion. 2015. Distributed by the Institute of Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. https://libguides.webster.edu/data/chicago.
- I am proposing to research religion and conflict resolution, specifically environmental conflict
- Because I want to find out what explains the intersection of religion and environmental conflict and its contribution to the international discussion, while analyzing the effects, both positive, negative, or neutral, of the contribution
- In order to help my reader understand whether/ why/ how religious can be a beneficial contributor to the current conversation involving environmental conflict.
Current conversation surrounding climate change and other environmental issues are in the forefront in the international community. The conflicts emerging as a result of environmental have added another layer to the already complex situation of environmental problems. The building urgency to act upon the degradation of the environmental both for intrinsic and instrumental value has forced international politics to convene. While much action is occurring between international organizations and governments there is question if religious communities and leaders also have a place in the conversation. Can the intersection between religion and environment lead to beneficial contribution?
Many religious leaders have spoken out about the importance of the environmental and the protection of it. For example, Pope Francis, the leading voice of the Catholic stance on the environment, wrote the “Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father on Care for Our Common Home”, which discusses the Catholic reasoning behind the protecting the environment. He expands the effects of environmental to include the “decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown in society” and issues like “global inequality.” Pope Francis advocates especially for grassroots methods of action stating that “existing world order process powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference.” The Catholic voice of environmental issues is just one example of the many religious communities that are also conversing, yet these perspective are oftentimes less seen or considered in the international community. This creates an interesting question of whether or not religion should have a voice in the discussion of action to combat the effects of things like climate change and pollution and questions what the implications of such collaboration would be.
Even outside organizations are debating and learning the implications of both ignoring and including religious thought in environmental discussion. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit media organization, held the 2019 Conference: Beyond Religion and specifically had a panel called “Religion and the Environment” where they question “the potential for interfaith collaboration in the protection of our planet?” The importance of the interfaith perspective on this conflict is regarded as important by many, but could it also create a new understanding that had not be previously considered.
Previous cases of the successful intersection between religious beliefs and conflict resolution in environmental conflict have occurred and explain the relevance of the topic. For example, in a study called “The Defense of Maiquillahue Bay: Knowledge, Faith, and Identity in an Environmental Conflict” describes the example in 1998 of the prevention of the construction of a pipeline that would have severely polluted the region. With the support of the people, through discussions surrounding the impact of culture, religion, and science that the pipeline would have, the community was able to stop the creation of it. Another study considers the potential that incorporating sulha, an Arab conflict resolution process, would have regard environmental conflict. The study argues that creating a new perspective with the integration of both sustainable ideas and process with sulha would produce more effective results because it accounts for both religious and cultural aspects. Both articles consider the beneficial contribution of religion.
This research is not only timely because of current international politics urging governments to take action to combat the effects of climate change, which disproportionately affect developing countries, but it also calls into question the effectiveness of adding a new perspective of religion. Religious dialogue could possibly provide ideas and reasoning that secular institutions and organizations are unable to provide. There is question here if the current conversation about environmental conflict is lacking in the areas of religious and cultural considerations that have the potential change the approach to working toward solutions.
Possible research questions:
- What explains the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of religious dialogue in regard to environmental conflict?
- What explains the dynamic between the religion of indigenous groups in Bolivia and environmental conflict?
 “Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015) | Francis.” n.d. <http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html> (Accessed September 29, 2019).
 Ibid, 31, 33.
 Ibid, 131.
 “2019 Conference: Beyond Religion.” 2019. Pulitzer Center. March 8, 2019. https://pulitzercenter.org/2019-conference-beyond-religion (Accessed September 28, 2019).
 Skewes, Juan Carlos, and Debbie Guerra. “The Defense of Maiquillahue Bay: Knowledge, Faith, and Identity in an Environmental Conflict1.” Ethnology 43, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 217.
 Tarabeih, Hussein, Deborah Shmueli, and Rassem Khamaisi. “Towards the Implementation of sulha as a cultural peacemaking method for managing and resolving environmental conflicts among Arab Palestinians in Israel.” Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 5, no. 1 (2009): 50.
“Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015) | Francis.” n.d. Accessed September 29, 2019. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
Tarabeih, Hussein, Deborah Shmueli, and Rassem Khamaisi. “Towards the Implementation of sulha as a cultural peacemaking method for managing and resolving environmental conflicts among Arab Palestinians in Israel.” Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 5, no. 1 (2009): 50-64.
Skewes, Juan Carlos, and Debbie Guerra. “The Defense of Maiquillahue Bay: Knowledge, Faith, and Identity in an Environmental Conflict1.” Ethnology 43, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 217– 31. doi:10.2307/3774063.
“2019 Conference: Beyond Religion.” 2019. Pulitzer Center. March 8, 2019. https://pulitzercenter.org/2019-conference-beyond-religion.
Judy Carter and Gordon Smith wrote a chapter to explain the role that religion has in peacebuilding. They argue that all religions differences, but more importantly the core similarity between religions about the dignity of every person, need to be considered when making conflict resolutions. They also focus on the idea that interreligious dialogue can create a “culture of prevention” and that should be the overall goal of religion in conflict. On the other hand, Peter Penfold approaches the question of the role of religious in conflict from another perspective. He considers the conflict in Sierra Leone as a case study to analyze the contribution of religious communities in resolution. 
While both works look at similar topics and agree that religion has an important and beneficial role in peacebuilding, they differ in their overall schools of thought. For example, Carter and Smith believe that understanding the differences in every religious practice will allow for prevention, the most desired outcome, or at least a lessen in and eventual resolution to conflict. From these differences, there is the core main value of peace for humanity. Penfold focuses more on the relationship between the religious and secular within a specific conflict and the commonality between religious groups being suffering. Carter and Smith expand upon theories of religion and peacebuilding, analyze the similarities and differences in major world religions, and create recommendations, especially for leaders in politics, religious positions, and nongovernmental organizations. Penfold uses Sierra Leone as a case study to specifically understand the dynamic of religion in modern day conflict.
Within my own research, these research examples lay out different methods to approaching a similar question, which yield different conclusions. While one work considered the macro-level, theoretical level, the other study considered a specific period and event. They also help me further my knowledge about the conversation surrounding conflict resolution and religion. I think this is an interesting perspective to consider because, oftentimes, religion in conflict is solely considered the spark or cause of conflicts rather than a piece of the solution.
 Harold Coward and Gordon S. Smith. “Religious Peacebuilding: From Potential to Action,” in Religion and Peacebuilding (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004), 280.
 Peter Penfold. “Faith in Resolving Sierra Leone’s Bloody Conflict,” in The Round Table (Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2005), 549.
 Coward, 299.
 Penfold, 551.
 Coward, 291-299.
Coward, Harold, and Smith, Gordon S. “Religious Peacebuilding: From Potential to Action,” in Religion and Peacebuilding, 279-301. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.
Penfold, Peter. “Faith in Resolving Sierra Leone’s Bloody Conflict,” in The Round Table, 549-557. Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2005.
The idea of ontology can be described as the beliefs about the nature of reality, which can also be asked as what is out there in the social world to know. Current debates within ontology include behaviorism versus culturalism, individualism versus emergentism, realism versus constructionism, and contextualism versus noncontectualism. Each of these debates greatly affect methodology because they decide how we interpret social reality and the nature of social reality.
Methodology, on the other hand, considers the logic behind selecting specific tools for data collection and analysis. There are many different types of methodologies on the neo-positivist and interpretivists scale: interviews, statistical analysis, and small-n case comparison. There is also the neo-positivism versus interpretivism debate within methodology. Within these debates, it is important to remember that methods have a “circular quality [that] guarantees an openness, a heuristic richness, to mutual methodological critiques”. Overall, both contribute to how we understand the social world and study it.
I do not think that a research can be an “objective observer” of the social world because despite best efforts, every researcher will inevitably have their own biases and preconceived notions about the social world. These opinions will form the researcher’s methodology when creating questions and a set of methods to explore the research question. Yet, in the midst of differing methods “we find ourselves in a labyrinth where any method can be found both superior and inferior to any other”. With different perspectives, the same research question can be explored in a variety of methods that create different conclusions. In the neo-positivists perspective there are generalizations, predictions, hypothesizes, measurements, and variables (XàY). On the other hand, the interpretivists perspective there is contextuality/ understanding, ambiguity and concepts, intertextuality, and no universal law. However, the research perceives social reality will determine their methodology.
Despite these distinctions, the important aspect to this discussion is critically analyzing if the research and methodology has internal validity. This is not a question of whether the reader agrees or disagrees with the perspective or methodology of the research, but rather analyzing the evidence within that methodology. Asking questions like does the evidence presented accurately capture the research question or does the method of research chosen for the particular question correctly analyze whatever they are attempting to capture are questions that should be asked to determine the internal validity of research.
The overall expanse of research can include social norms, causes and consequences, and even invisible structures and phenomena. A major piece of research is contributing to the already expansive collection of research completed on a particular concept, but from a different perspective or with a different methodology. For example, research to redefine words in a specific field does not include research about something tangible, but rather is research about the concepts and ideas themselves. Studying both the tangible and intangible are incredibly important for every field of study to have a universal set of ideas that is agreed upon by scholars in the field.
 Andrew Abbott. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004), 42.
 Ibid, 75.
Andrew Abbott. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.
Meeting 1 with Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer
Duration: 25 minutes
The meeting opened with introductions and quick discussion about Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer’s work involving peacebuilding and religion. He explained his interests in religion and peace occurred after 9/11 and the United States faced a rise in islamophobia. We then moved into speaking about the Olson Scholars Program and the interest of my research question: religion and conflict. My main goal for this meeting was to receive recommendations on ways to create a more concentrated research question and places to find more reading material.
With the concern of specifying my concentration within the research, Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer first recommended that I pick a specific region of the world to focus on, or to look at specific case studies of religion and conflict. He explained that the role of religion greatly differs depending on the region being studied, so it would be necessary to confine my research to a particular area. He also proposed that I ask the three following questions to begin the research. First, what motivates people to become religious peacemakers? Second, what challenges do these religious peacemakers face. And third, how do the religious peacemakers develop different theology to practice peace rather than conflict? These three questions will help guide my research in the preliminary stages. He then gave me examples of puzzles that he finds interesting domestically. For example, how do religious leaders in the US respond to US domestic policy against immigrants, racism, or any alienating of certain populations? What do the religious elite have to say about this? And finally, is there a joint platform where religious leaders are able to discuss policies? To conclude the meeting, he recommended that I read three books revolving around the topic of religion and conflict.
Moving forward with this topic, I plan on reading the books Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer recommended. I plan to use these books as a guide to gain a better perspective of religion and conflict and see possible research question routes. I plan to choose a region of the world to study and learn more about specific cases in those regions.
My research interest in this class is to study and understand the role that religion plays in conflict to unite or further divide. This is something that I find especially puzzling because in some circumstances religion is used as an essential key to creating lasting peace, while in other cases religion further cleavages populations and must be removed from the equation in order to achieve peace. Does religion have a role in peacebuilding? Why does the influence of religion differ depending on the conflict? When is religion successful in peacebuilding?
I choose the topic of religion and conflict for several reasons. First, religion has played an important role within my own life and identity, and is something that I am interested in expanding my knowledge on. Second, I personally find religion incredibly interesting because it acts as personal identity on the micro-level, but it also plays a major role in the overarching level within the international community. I am hoping to understand the how individual identity contributes to the decisions made on the macro-level of international affairs.
In Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer’s article “Conflict Resolution, Culture, and Religion: Toward a Training Model of Interreligious Peacebuilding”, he explores the intersectionality and success between culture, religion, and peacebuilding. Especially, considering the importance religion and culture plays in conflicts. This article creates interesting questions about identity and peacebuilding and has encouraged me to further research the intersectionality. Overall, I am hoping to gain a greater understanding of influence of religion in both a positive and negative circumstances, especially within peacebuilding.
 Mohammed Abu-Nimer. “Conflict Resolution, Culture, and Religion: Toward a Training Model of Interreligious Peacebuilding.” Journal of Peace Research 38, no. 6 (2001), pp. 685-704.
Abu-Nimer, Mohammed. “Conflict Resolution, Culture, and Religion: Toward a Training Model of Interreligious Peacebuilding,” Journal of Peace Research 38, no. 6 (2001), 685-704.