Islam & Conflict Transformation 2013: Conference Report

Ultimately change may very likely be rooted in the heart, and interventions require substantial spiritual input to ensure this. – Atallah Fitzgibbon, Policy and Strategy Manager of Islamic Relief Worldwide 

Author: Contributors; Edited by Victoria Biggs (Manchester University), Lucy V. Moore (Islamic Relief Worldwide), Muhtari Aminu-Kano (Islamic Relief Worldwide)
Country: United Kingdom
Category: Conflict Transformation

On 24 January 2013 Islamic Relief Worldwide held a one-day landmark Conference on Islam and Conflict Transformation in collaboration with the University of Manchester Humanitarian and Conflict Response Unit (HCRI)

Islam and Islamic organisations, both historically and in contemporary conflicts, have played a central role not only in providing relief and rehabilitation but also acting as agents of peace building and conflict transformation. The conference brought together academics and practitioners from across the globe to present and discuss academic and robust policy oriented research in the field of conflict resolution and peace-building in the Muslim world.

The conference was framed by plenary presentations from Prof. Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana from the Salam Institute for Peace, while Justice. Professor Abu-Nimer opened the conference with a presentation offering a practitioner’s view of the specific needs and requirements when working on peacebuilding within the Muslim world. Through his presentation, the Professor emphasised that the factors instigating and maintaining conflict are not simply ‘Muslim’ issues but in fact ‘human’ issues – we share across the globe. 

Dr Kadayifci in turn opened the afternoon sessions with her plenary presentation on ‘Women within Peacebuilding in the Islamic World’. The positive message of her presentation emphasised that there are a plethora of women engaged with peacebuilding activities, but that as practitioners our understanding of what a peacebuilder looks like can make those contributions invisible to us. To engage women as peacebuilders, there is a need to widen our definition of where peace is built and by whom; widening it from the high-level officials that are usually the focus of attention. 

Eleven papers were presented through the conference plenary sessions, covering a broad spectrum of research into critical approaches to peace, conflict and governance in Islam. Policy and Strategy Manager for IRW, Atallah Fitzgibbon, closed the conference by highlighting the key lessons for practitioners and policy that were raised by the papers, most notable of which included the need for continued focus on education, on community ownership of conflict transformation, gender sensitive approaches and a focus on local context – as ‘one size’ does not fit all. The papers presented demonstrated the vibrant discussions taking place within the field, but also that there is a continuing need to develop faith literacy as it relates to conflict, peace and the transformation between.     

The IRW/HCRI Conference on Islam and Conflict Transformation was part of an ongoing programme funded through the DFID Partnership Programme Arrangements (PPA) within Islamic Relief Worldwide to improve faith literacy on conflict, gender justice, climate change and child protection, and to advance organisational policy around best practice in the field. 

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