On Religion and Mediation: Training UN Staff from Around the Globe
How can the United Nations effectively engage with religious actors? In what ways does the internal culture of the UN effect the processes it implements? How could mediation processes be designed in a way that acknowledges the critical role of religious and traditional actors?
On December 12-15, twenty-five participants gathered from the United Nations and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the third annual UN Course on Religion and Mediation. This course was held at Princeton Theological Seminary and co-organized by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, ETH Zurich, UN Department of Political Affairs and Al Amana International. During the three day training, participants were led through interactive sessions on assessing the role of religion in conflict, understanding gender inclusive mediation strategies and putting into practice the concept of a mediation space in conflict resolution.
Ambassador Pekka Metso from Finland, Dr. Azza Karam from UNFPA and Jean-Nicolas Bitter from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs share insights on religion in conflict with the group.
Participants came from UN headquarters in New York as well as regional offices in Afghanistan, Somalia, Jerusalem, Columbia, CAR, Mali and Yemen. Two participants also joined from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. During the course participants engaged in role plays and interactive group discussions assessing conflicts in various regions.
In their reflections on the course, many participants expressed feeling more equipped to assess the role of religion in conflict and distinguish between religion as a worldview difference and religion as an identity marker. They noted the exercises on process design and mediation role-plays were particularly useful to their work. Many also highlighted that in the future they would be more likely to engage religious and traditional actors in mediation and peacebuilding processes.
Case study groups gave participants space to discuss the dynamics of religion in context in their specific region.