I completed my PhD on Transforming Conflict in Divided Societies: The Role of Faith-Based Actors in Northern Ireland at Queen’s University Belfast in July 2013. The thesis dealt with religions’ and faith-based actors’ potential to play positive roles in processes of peacebuilding, using Northern Ireland as a case study.
Supervisors at different stages of the PhD:
- Professor Brian Walker (1st)
- Dr Margaret O’Callaghan (1st)
- Dr Neophytos Loizides (2nd)
- Professor Adrian Guelke (2nd)
“Whereas a negative connection has often been made between religion, nationalism and conflict, it is clear that religion’s positive dimensions have received less attention and recognition. The present study therefore aims to shed light on religion’s potential to be a tool and vehicle for peace and reconciliation and, more specifically, the circumstances under which religious actors are able/unable to assist in peacebuilding processes in societies divided along religious lines. Using Northern Ireland as a case study to explore a number of hypotheses from the literature and through consultation of a wide range of primary and secondary sources including semi-structured interviews, the analysis confirms that a combination of motives, means and opportunities has contributed to making peacebuilding by faith-based initiatives more likely as well as increasing its success once occurring. In particular, the study emphasises motives in the form of a need to address the status quo and encourage bridge-building across divisions informed by faith convictions, sufficient means in terms of both financial and non-monetary resources, as well as opportunities presented through the wider societal context. A mapping of the extent of faith-based peacebuilding initiatives (FBPIs) in the Northern Ireland case during the period 1965-2012 further shows that significant faith-based peacebuilding is indeed possible, even in conflict contexts with religious divisions, given the right combination of circumstances.”