Religion has often been debated as a cause or a cure of conflict. The latest report from the Institute for Economics and Peace, provides important statistical analysis of the link between religion and peace. The report “Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion”, debunks common myths about the role of religion in conflict and aims to broaden the discussion on whether religion in itself is a cause of conflict or whether there are other more significant factors.
The research shows that of the 35 armed conflicts that took place in 2013, only 5 were motivated by religious elements alone. Importantly, nearly two thirds of the 35 conflicts had among their main cause opposition to a particular government or opposition to the economic, ideological, political or social system of a state. When analysing the motivation for these conflicts, the desire for identity and self-government was a part of 60% of conflicts.
- Corruption, economic inequality and political instability have a greater impact on countries’ likelihood of conflict than religious differences.
- The proportion of atheists in a country does not impact levels of peace.
- Many Muslim-majority countries with Sunni and Shia demographic mixes are relatively peaceful.
- Only 14% of conflicts in 2013 were motivated by religion alone, however religion was one of multiple causes in 60% of conflicts.
- Two thirds of the conflicts had as their main cause opposition to a particular government or opposition to the economic, ideological, political or social system of a state.
- More peaceful countries tend to have fewer restrictions on religious behaviour and less hostility towards religion.
The Peace and Religion report shows that religion can be a catalyst for peace, as religious groups and communities tend to strengthen the social bonds of citizens. Civic engagement and participation, as well as higher group membership, such as sports or religious groups, corresponds with slightly higher levels of peace and can strengthen the resilience of societies.