New multidisciplinary research center at the University of Helsinki provides in-depth research on the role of religions in conflicts and their resolution. The research center, hosted by the Faculty of Theology, explores how religions can be a part of constructive dialogue with each other, thereby providing top-quality insight for future leaders, whether religious or secular. Special emphasis will be put on different aspects of gender.
Religions play an increasingly significant role in recent global developments. The impact of religion moving forcefully back from the private to the public realm in Western societies affects all, whether religious or not. New and radical interpretations of religion challenge even societies where religion never left the public domain.
Migration, for example, lends greater visibility to religions as they encounter each other and pose new challenges to our understanding of faiths and faith-based communities. The danger of religion leading into conflict instead of to a deeper understanding is real. While religions once used to serve as pillars of stability in society, they now appear in media first and foremost as sources of societal insecurity and unrest. If religions have become a part of the problems in the world, could they also become a part of the solution?
The research unit seeks to engage religions in a constructive dialogue with each other, as well as with society at large, in order to alleviate tensions both locally and globally, as well as to challenge prejudices. The research center is multidisciplinary. From a solid understanding of the texts and traditions that form the basis of religions as we see them today, the research center moves on to propose new understandings of religions in a proper context, whether religious or secular.
The research center is specifically focused on different aspects of gender, which are often neglected in the study of peace, conflict and religions. Whereas men often control the power structures of religion, women are often the first to suffer the consequences. It is important to recognize gender imbalances at all relevant levels – be they religious institutions, conflict resolution processes or the grassroots level. Women must be educated, and their expertise, interests and needs taken into account in conflicts as well as in peace negotiations.
The research center provides top-quality research for future leaders, whether religious or secular. Policy-makers, educators, religious community workers and leaders will be provided a forum where they can analyze and understand the role of religion in conflict and turn the process into a dialogue. The media will have direct access to high-quality, up-to-date analysis of the significance of religion in conflict situations.
In particular, the research center provides research-based education to students in an international Master’s degree programme Intercultural Encounters at the University of Helsinki training students in decision-making, peacemaking and conflict resolution.