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Mediation Perspectives: Using Religious Resources to Teach Negotiation and Mediation Skills (Part 2): Christianity

Courtesy of jan.tito/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

The purpose of today’s blog, which is the second of a multi-part series, is to illustrate how Christian religious resources can be used to teach negotiation and mediation skills. (To learn about the broader criteria of applying these resources, see my previous blog here.) Specifically and provisionally, what I would like to focus on here is what the Bible says about the ‘when’ and ‘how’ to negotiate and mediate. The ideas that follow were inspired and tested in a workshop in 2016 organized by the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Program with the Heads of Christian Denominations (HOCD) representing the main Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Apostolic Christian church formations within the country.

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Mediation Perspectives: Using Religious Resources to Teach Negotiation and Mediation (Part 1): Criteria

Courtesy of jan.tito/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

A pastor tells a negotiation expert: “The truth will set you free!” The negotiation expert responds: “What “truth”? It all depends on your perception! And anyway, why are you telling me this; what is the interest behind your position?” One can imagine how this type of interaction could quickly degenerate into miscommunication. However, one can also take it as a starting point to reflect on how different professional communities – in the following case, religious actors and negotiation and mediation experts – can interact constructively.

The purpose of today’s blog, which is the first of a multi-part series, is to see what guiding principles can facilitate the above interaction. The blogs that will follow this one will then illustrate how mediation can be performed by different religious communities and profitably rely on religious sources, such as the Bible or the Quran, to train negotiators and mediators.

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Interview – Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

Behold the Two Headed Spanish Horse

Courtesy Alan Levine/Flickr

This interview transcript was originally published by by E-International Relations (E-IR) in September 2016.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is Professor of Political Science and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Hurd’s latest book Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton, 2015) has attracted international attention by framing important debates around what the author believes is a problematic intersection of policy, religion and political interest in global affairs today. In this interview she discusses the implications of her scholarship and where she believes the study of religion in IR is headed.

What motivated you to write your latest book Beyond Religious Freedom?

Beyond Religious Freedom is my response to what I see as a need to rethink how we approach the study of religion and politics in the field of international relations. There’s been a gold-rush mentality lately as scholars scurry to ‘get religion right’ – but many of these efforts are confused, or even troubling. The problem, as I discuss in more detail elsewhere, is that international relations ‘got religion’ but got it wrong. Beyond Religious Freedom encourages scholars to step back from the political fray. It neither celebrates religion for its allegedly peaceful potential nor condemns it for its allegedly violent tendencies. Instead, I propose a new conceptual framework for the study of religion and public life. It accounts for the gaps and tensions that I perceived between the large-scale international legal, political and religious engineering projects undertaken in the name of religious freedom, toleration, and rights, and the realities of the individuals and communities subjected to these efforts.

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Post-Sistani Iraq, Iran, and the Future of Shia Islam

Courtesy of Aslan Media/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 8 September 2016.

During a recent trip to my hometown of Najaf in southern Iraq, I stumbled across a book titled My Leader Khamenei in the personal library of a cleric studying in the Islamic seminary known as the Hawza. He had picked it up at a bookstore near the shrine of Imam Ali, where the first Shia Imam is buried. It is a popular destination for Muslim pilgrims – especially Shia Muslims – from across the world.

Najaf, which lies 100 miles south of Baghdad, is the heartland of Shia Islam. Home to a seminary established in the early 11th century and the seat of the Marja’iyya – the influential religious establishment led by Ayatollahs.

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King Salman and the Saudi Ulama

Quran pages, courtesy WBEZ/Flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 18 May 2016.

For Middle East watchers, all eyes are on Saudi Arabia these days, particularly on the transformative Saudi Vision 2030 plan recently introduced by the young Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The plan envisions a Saudi Arabia with reinvigorated development, a diversified economy, and peace and security. It is a plan decidedly aimed at young Saudis, upon whom the future of the state rests. To assess its chances of success, however, observers would do well to watch the reaction of the ulama, the religious clerics who have an enormous impact on daily life in Saudi Arabia and whose alliance with the House of Saud is the bedrock upon which the modern Saudi state is built. Despite the Kingdom’s progressive plan, the clerics seem to be backsliding, and the internal dynamics between its leading members are shifting considerably.

In the 2000s, under the late King Abdullah, the clerical universe consisted of four broad categories: the Sahwa (or Islamic Awakening, a group of former oppositionist clerics that have come to fall in line behind the Saudi monarchy), the Islamic Liberals (including Shiite clerics), the Salafi-jihadists, and the establishment clerics. The bulk of these clerical classes were co-opted by the Saudi leadership to contribute to the fight against al-Qaida and as a means of diminishing Iran’s influence over the Saudi Shiite population. By 2009, a new group arose within the ulama; younger and more liberal than their contemporaries, these “Young Turks” had not yet been co-opted by the regime in the fight against extremism. A key figure in the rise of this group was Prince Khalid al-Faisal, currently the Saudi Minister of Education, who was formerly the governor of Mecca and, before that, Asir province.

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