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The twenty-first century finds the human community at a pivotal moment in its history, facing problems of an unprecedented scale that will require an unprecedented level of human cooperation to surmount. Violent conflict is hampering humanity’s ability to address these urgent problems, while taking a tragic and unacceptable toll on communities around the globe. The quest to forge a better future will require inquiry into the spiritual and ethical dimensions of these profound problems and their solutions.  With religion a vital and integral aspect of life for the majority of people on the planet, religious communities will have an indispensable role to play if humanity is to move toward sustainable peace. 

While religious conflict features prominently in news and public discourse, much less attention has been dedicated to the roles of religion in fostering peace, despite the growth of scholarship and practice in this area over the past two decades. Understanding the positive role of religion in preventing violence, pursuing social change and social justice by nonviolent means, and building sustainable peace is essential to religious and cultural literacy. Advancing knowledge in this vital yet still understudied area will benefit experts and leaders across sectors, scholars, educators, policymakers, peace practitioners, religious communities, and the general public around the globe.

The Religions and the Practice of Peace (RPP) Initiative at Harvard Divinity School, founded by Dean David N. Hempton in 2014, serves as a hub at Harvard University for advancing engagement, scholarship, and practice on these pressing issues. It brings together the Harvard Divinity School faculty's deep expertise in the study of religion, theology, and ministry in diverse religious traditions with the expertise of faculty from a wide array of disciplines and fields from across Harvard's Schools. RPP aims to leverage Harvard University’s unparalleled cross-disciplinary expertise, religiously and culturally diverse community, and global reach to make major contributions to fostering sustainable peace in our world.

Three Guiding Questions of RPP

  1. In what ways can the study of religions and the practice of peace, past and present, advance our understanding of religion?
  2. What can be learned from the ideas, methods, and experiences of individuals and communities who have drawn upon religious and spiritual resources to foster peace, nonviolence, and social justice in particular cultural and historical contexts?
  3. How might this knowledge inform and inspire contemporary efforts, by religious and non-religious alike, to create a world of sustainable peace for all?

RPP Voices

Matthew Hodes

I do believe—increasingly so—in the ability of religious leaders to play a positive role in particular stages of the conflict spectrum to prevent, mitigate, and, in the aftermath of conflict, reconcile.

—Matthew Hodes, director of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations