Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace
A high-impact centre dedicated to fostering peace and reconciliation across the world.View content
The University of Winchester’s Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace (CRRP) was established in 2010 to help advance knowledge and understanding in the areas of religion and peacebuilding, and reconciliation.
As a high-impact research centre dedicated to helping make a tangible difference to those affected by structural violence and armed conflict, our work is particularly focussed on examining the crucial links between theory and practice in religious peacebuilding and reconciliation processes, and how each informs, challenges and enhances the other.
We strongly believe in the power of collaboration, and the importance of cultural and contextual forms of peacebuilding, and we work with academic partners; secular, religious and faith-based organisations; and government and multi-national institutions worldwide. We offer training and consultancy in many areas of peacebuilding and reconciliation, and highly commended postgraduate courses.
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Explore the tabs below to find out more about who we are, our work and our impact.
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What we do
Meet the team
- Professor Mark Owen, Director
- Rebecca Bellamy, Coordinator & Partnerships Officer
- Dr Andrei Gomez-Suarez, Senior Research Fellow
- Professor Simon Keyes, Professor of Reconciliation and Dialogue
- Dr Hewa Haji Khedir, Research Fellow
- Professor Anna King, Professor of Religious Studies and Social Anthropology
- Dr Majbritt Lyck-Bowen, Research Fellow and Programme Leader MA Reconciliation/MA Reconciliation and Peacebuilding
- Luke Abbs, Research Fellow
Visiting Fellows and Professors
Religion and Conflict Analysis
One of the primary areas of focus for CRRP is enhancing our understanding of the role of religion in driving conflict and how it can support effective and sustainable peacebuilding processes. Over recent years, Dr Mark Owen and Professor Anna King have been working in a variety of contexts to systematise understandings of the role of religion in conflict and peacebuilding, and to devise a theoretically informed yet practical and accessible framework for peacebuilding practitioners worldwide. Find out more about the Religion and Conflict Analysis project. The project has led to a REF Impact Case Study.
Religion and Peacebuilding in Asia
CRRP carries out religion and peacebuilding research in three Asian countries: Myanmar, Nepal and India. Find out more about CRRP's work in Asia.
Religion and Migration
Since 2016, in partnership with the European Council of Religious Leaders, CRRP has been carrying out a project examining multi-religious approaches to integration. The project is designed to test anecdotal assumptions that in some circumstances there are tangible benefits to faith-based organisations and religious communities working together on integration projects and initiatives. It also examined the benefit of multi-religious participation host communities.
Drs Lyck-Bowen and Owen have published an article detailing the results of the first phase of the project: Lyck-Bowen, Majbritt & Mark Owen (2018) A multi-religious response to the migrant crisis in Europe: A preliminary examination of potential benefits of multi-religious cooperation on the integration of migrants, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 45:1, 21-41.
Examining contextual forms and processes of reconciliation
Whilst as a concept reconciliation is contested, it is also recognised as an essential element of the process of bringing individuals and communities back together after violent and/or structural conflict. Our work on reconciliation is intended to critically examine the theories and practices of reconciliation in diverse contexts. The main aims of this project are to support groups and organisations who wish to become engaged in reconciliation processes and work to:
- Test existing assumptions about reconciliation which at individual and/or organisational level, and how the context in which they are working shapes ideas around reconciliation
- Consider how existing theories and frameworks on reconciliation enhance/contradict/can assist ideas around reconciliation processes and activities
- Help carry out a skills and training audit in order to see how existing knowledge and capacity matches opportunities for engagement, and mentor the planning of projects/initiatives/strategies related to reconciliation
Prof. Keyes, Dr Lyck-Bowen and Dr Owen have conducted workshops and training with groups from Rakhine and central Myanmar; Syrian refugees in Gaziantep, Turkey; the South Caucasus, examining the protracted conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh; the Sami in Finland. They are also supporting the design and implementation of a National Reconciliation Framework in Somalia. In 2018, Prof. Keyes facilitated a workshop for representatives of the Afghan Embassy in London.
The Centre is also developing a comprehensive database on Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. Once launched it will be the largest of its kind in the world.
Faith-based stakeholders and sustainable futures
In collaboration with the Muslim women-led international development charity Global One, we have been examining the beliefs and practices of communities from 6 major world religions and the work of numerous Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs), to understand how religion influences approaches to clean energy, and consumption and waste. You can read our findings in the documents below:
Global One is a UK faith-based international NGO focussed on sustainable development, the improvement of women’s livelihoods, and Islamic faith-based principles. Since its inception, Global One has promoted interfaith collaboration, working with people of all faiths and beliefs to establish constructive dialogue and action in the field of sustainable development.
This project is part of a broader programme of work at the Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace (CRRP) and we would be pleased to connect with further potential collaborators in this area.
Buddhism and conflict transformation
Exploring the relationship between Buddhism and conflict transformation is of particular interest to CRRP staff Prof. Anna King and Dr Mark Owen. Both have presented papers on this subject at conferences in the UK and Asia, including a proposed framework for analysing Buddhist peacebuilding in different contexts; on the holy pilgrimage site of Lumbini and its role in the Nepal peace process; and an analysis of the ‘Tibet Question’ and the Dalai Lama.
Work in this area has informed the design of a curriculum on ‘Buddhism and Conflict Transformation’; which was commissioned by the United States Institute of Peace, and aimed at secondary school students in South East Asian Buddhist communities. The curriculum was implemented initially in schools in Myanmar in 2018; with the intention of being promoted in other Theravada countries including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos in 2018-19. The Centre also has a close relationship with the Centre for Applied Buddhism based at Taplow Court, Maidenhead (UK); and in in 2016 we held a joint conference on Buddhism and Conflict Transformation, with Johan Galtung as the keynote presenter. Future work will focus on systematising different approaches to Buddhist peacebuilding, and examining the apparent advantages and disadvantages of a range of different approaches.
Justin Meyers: Muslim and Christian Theologies of Reconciliation and their Implications in Peacebuilding
Jamie Creswell: Nichiren Buddhist Philosophy and its relevance to Peace building humanitarianism and social action
Benjamin Lutz: Religious Dialogues: Examining The Power of Reflective Structured Dialogue in Middle East Peacebuilding Processes
Christopher Zefting: Race, Reconciliation, and Radically Different 'Radicals': How contributions from American Buddhism might inform Burmese Buddhist peacebuilding
Postgraduate courses and research degree supervision
The centre offers two postgraduate courses: MA Reconciliation and Peacebuilding and MA Reconciliation. Our courses provide a comprehensive and critical understanding of a broad range of contemporary debates relevant to the study of reconciliation, peacebuilding and religious peacebuilding. Our students also develop a wide range of transferable competencies and skills that are important for their future career in peacebuilding, reconciliation and related fields.
"I kept working in my job (as director of the reconciliation programme of an international humanitarian NGO working with refugees) while doing the Master’s and now a year has passed since I completed. The MA has made an immeasurable difference, giving me the confidence, knowledge, skills and contacts to do this challenging work with more motivation, expertise and hope." Danielle Vella, Head of Mission, Jesuit Refugee Services
The Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding (CRRP) provides a supportive and professional environment for Doctoral students to carry out cutting-edge research, whilst receiving guidance from academics and practitioners working at the forefront of their fields. Our deep knowledge of peacebuilding and reconciliation, allied to our practical focus and worldwide networks, makes the Centre a particularly suitable environment for PhDs with practical dimension and/or policy implications.
We are a high-impact research centre dedicated to helping to create a free, just and peaceful world. We aim to do this by sharing excellence in knowledge, understanding, skills, relationships, and best practice in reconciliation and peacebuilding. The Centre is one of the few academic institutions globally offering an intentional, systematic, and proactive approach to peacebuilding. We take for granted the assumption that research should impact on the wider society and emphasise theoretical knowledge as a way of bringing greater understanding to practice and policy. In order to discern and test the reality of such impact we devise evaluation frameworks, engage in reflexive critical scrutiny of our own research and sophisticated analysis of decision-making processes.
Our Centre seeks to create a global community of scholars by its partnerships with other universities, institutions, and non-governmental organisations. Our research is enhanced through international research projects, visiting fellowships, ethnographic field research, distance-learning programmes, teaching, and continuing professional development and training. We engage with national governments, multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations, and work in many areas of the world including Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the USA.
Areas of supervision
Staff have the skills and expertise to supervise doctoral studies in all areas related to:
- Religion and peacebuilding
- Reconciliation theory and practice
- Conflict assessment and analysis
- UN Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding
- Conflict and peacebuilding in the Middle East and North Africa
- Interfaith dialogue and multi-religious action
- Peacebuilding in Dharmic religions and contexts
- International Criminal Law and Accountability for Mass Atrocities
- Transitional Justice
- Integration of Migrants and Refugees
We especially welcome expressions of interest from applicants anywhere in the world, working with conflict affected communities to address their challenges of peacebuilding and reconstruction. And we are also keen to receive proposals which encourage the theoretical development of the wider discipline of Reconciliation and Peacebuilding.
For current postgraduate research projects, see above under Research Projects.
Training and Consultancy
The CRRP offers training and consultancy services in a range of different areas, and support for peacebuilding and faith-based organisations, and governments and policy makers. A major focus of CRRP is ensuring that all our practical solutions and workshops are informed by the most up-to-date research and evidence in the areas.
CRRP offers training and/or consultancy services in the areas of:
- Conflict analysis and assessment
- Designing and implementing peacebuilding projects
- Monitoring and evaluation for peacebuilding
- Engaging religious actors in peacebuilding projects
- The theory and practice of reconciliation
- Dialogue skills and facilitation
- Interfaith dialogue and multi-religious action
- Building peacebuilding partnerships and networks
Our training workshops and programmes are usually designed in consultation with commissioning partners to ensure they best meet the requirements of participants. With our extensive contacts, we also help build partnerships for research, practical peacebuilding work, and policy formation between government institutions, peacebuilding practitioners, academics, and religious leaders and communities.
Our training and consultancy has helped support peacebuilding and reconciliation processes globally. Previous partners and collaborators include:
CRRP's founding partners are St Ethelburga’s Centre of Reconciliation and Peace in London and Religions for Peace International in New York.
St Ethelburga’s works to inspire and equip people from all backgrounds to become peace-builders in their own communities and lives. St Ethelburga’s works for the integration of refugees and asylum seekers by building relationships across differences and by training young people to become allies to displaced people. They seek to empower young adults to lead and collaborate across faiths and culture, working particularly with sacred activism and spiritual ecology. And they offer quality training in all their approaches and methods.
Religions for Peace International is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action among the world’s religious communities for peace. Religions for Peace works to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies, and protect the Earth. The global Religions for Peace network comprises a World Council of senior religious leaders from all regions of the world; six regional interreligious bodies and more than 90 national ones; and the Global Women of Faith Network and Global Interfaith Youth Network.
European Council of Religious Leaders
The Centre is a key partner to the Religions for Peace regional body, the European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL). The ECRL was established in Norway in 2002 as a platform to enhance communication and cooperation between senior religious leaders of different faiths across Europe. The Council draws on the rich religious traditions and values that are an integral part of Europe’s history and fabric, in order to support the enhancement of social and environmental harmony, and peace and stability throughout Europe and the wider world. ECRL remains one of the most representative and respected pan-European collaborations of senior religious leaders in Europe, and is seen by many as an important body for promoting respect, tolerance, justice, and the rule of law.
Religions for Peace International is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action among the world’s religious communities for peace.
CRRP has been providing support and expertise to help sustain and develop the ECRL since 2016, including helping implement projects on religion and integration, freedom of religion and constitutions, EU/MENA collaboration on migration, and the establishment and development of interfaith councils across Europe.
Rebecca Bellamy currently serves as ECRL Secretariat Manager, and Dr Mark Owen as Secretary General.
The centre has hosted regular public events for many years, inviting speakers to present on a range of challenging issues, particularly topical issues where the events have required much needed space for critical discussion. We have explored conflict and peacebuilding in Ireland, Syria, the Balkans, Israel & Palestine and many other contexts. Events are often organised at relatively short notice in response to requests and availability.
Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed; see below for details of our most recent events.
Centre Director Professor Mark Owen has attended the Middle East and North Africa Climate Week 2022, presenting research he co-authored in 2021 with Global One, a Muslim and women-led development charity. This research was also presented at COP26 in 2021. This is a new area for the centre and we are pleased to hear from anyone with an interest and open to further collaborators.
Reconciliation in exile
On 10 March 2022 we learned how how the Truth Commission is working in more than 20 countries to document the voices of Colombians outside Colombia. This event was the eighth in Critical Dialogues on Reconciliation, a series of dialogues co-organised with Embrace Dialogue that seek to prompt a multicultural, interdisciplinary, global dialogue about reconciliation.
The Colombian Truth Commission will publish its final report in June 2022; this dialogue focussed on its reconciliation work with the Colombian diaspora. The Speakerwas Peter Drury, Representative of the Colombian Truth Commission in the United Kingdom; the event was chaired by Andrei Gomez-Suarez, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace and co-founder of Embrace Dialogue.
Seeds of peace
Ginkgo seeds from a tree that survived the nuclear attacks on Japan at the end of World War Two have been sown at the University of Winchester as part of an international peace project. The Ginkgo Tree Project, a collaboration between the University, the Winchester Mayoralty and Winchester members of SGI-UK (Buddhism in Action for Peace), was launched in August 2021 to promote peace, anti-bullying and sustainability in schools.
Talking Peace, Exploring Conflict Podcast series
In 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold and public gatherings became impossible, CRRP decided to move its regular seminars online, to enable the continuation of its public engagement programme. The Talking Peace seminars are being published as a series of podcasts.
Rethinking Reconciliation panel discussions
Rethinking Reconciliation is a series of panels running from May to July in collaboration with the Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol and Queens University Belfast. The panels discuss reconciliation in practice, reconciliation and gender, and the local, national and international intersections and dimensions of reconciliation.
Wars formally end and combatants lay down their weapons, yet what follows rarely amounts to a clear-cut, unambiguous ‘peace’. After formal hostilities have ended, citizens experience poor quality peace, in which intergroup antagonism and mutual distrust persist, and poverty and exclusion blight the lives of the population. Coexistence is tenuous after historical violence, and, at worst, peace agreements may collapse, and the cycle of violence recommence.
Academic debates addressing reconciliation and the corollary notion of dealing with the past have escalated over recent years, and reconciliation has been increasingly employed to understand the quality and durability of peace settlements. Practitioners and policymakers have accordingly begun to consolidate strategies that are situated within the framework of reconciliation. However, little consensus over the scope, breadth and meaning of and limitations to reconciliation exists and there remains a theoretical and empirical lacuna in terms of the concept’s validity.
The first panel, 'Understanding Reconciliation in Practice', asked what practitioners and academics mean by reconciliation, and how it plays out in specific contexts. Professor Lars Waldorf (University of Essex) asked whether the role of arts and the localisation of justice in Rwanda and Sri Lanka have facilitated more transformative social relations. Dr Gráinne Kelly (University of Ulster) discussed how reconciliation is defined and measured in Northern Ireland, and whether it is possible to reshape vertical and horizontal narratives without undermining peace. Dr Andrei Gomex-Suarez (CRRP) concentrated on the Colombian context, and Professor Valérie Rosoux (UC Louvain) spoke to her extensive knowledge on Africa and Belgium, and the dynamics of inter-generational reconciliation. Dr Roddy Brett (University of Bristol) was the discussant
The second panel, ‘Gender and Reconciliation’, explored the form in which gendered power relations are impacted by and have an impact upon post-conflict and transitional scenarios. The different forms in which women and men experience conflict and transition were discussed, and the extent to which reconciliation processes are capable of generating a transformative change in gender relations reflected on. Given the need to acknowledge the relational nature of gender, the role played by masculinities in transitional contexts was also debated, paying specific attention to the multiple forms in which masculinity can be understood in these scenarios. Speakers were Senior Gender Advisor Nahla Valji (United Nations), Professor Brandon Hamber (Ulster University), Senior Researcher Elise Feron (Tampere University), and Associate Professor Johanna Mannergren Selimovic (Södertörn University), with Dr Gwen Burnyeat (University of Oxford) as discussant.
Public Dialogue series
Recent Developments in Transitional Justice in Colombia, Thursday 29 July 2021
A public dialogue on the impact of the national strike and other recent developments in transitional justice in Colombia, with Giovanni Álvarez, director of the Investigation and Accusation Unit (IAU) of Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). In collaboration with Embrace Dialogue.
Conflict Dynamics and Challenges for Peace with the National Liberation Army of Colombia, 25 March 2021
After a landmark peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, Colombia continues to face an internal armed conflict. Senior Research Fellow Andrei Gómez-Suarez chaired a public dialogue between Elizabeth Dickinson (Senior Analyst Colombia, International Crisis Group) and Kyle Johnson (Co-founder of Conflict Responses) to reflect on the conflict dynamics and prospects for peace with the ELN insurgency.
Images of Research Exhibition
The Centre has participated in both of the University's Images of Research exhibitions held so far. In the inaugural IoR in 2017, we focussed on our peace and reconciliation work in Myanmar, and in the 2018 edition, the focus was on the implementation of the Prevent duty in primary schools.
Both exhibitions can still be enjoyed online as virtual exhibitions:
Our peace and reconciliation work in Myanmar was the focus of our contribution to the 2017 Images of Research exhibition.
Religion and Culture in Conflict and Peace
In June 2018 the Centre launched its first international conference on ‘Religion and Culture in Conflict and Peace’. The conference is an annual event, and is intended to be participative and collaborative. If you are interested in partnering with us or hosting the conference, please contact Dr Mark Owen to discuss further.
In 2018 we welcomed two excellent keynote speakers for our inaugural conference: Susan Hayward from United States Institute for Peace, and Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer Senior Advisor to the King Abdullah Centre of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.
In 2019, we partnered with the Lumbini Development Trust and the Nepalese Government to deliver our 2nd International Conference on Religion and Culture in Conflict and Peace in Lumbini, Nepal. The conference focussed on Reconciliation and Peacebuilding in South-Asia and included esteemed keynote speakers Professor Hugh Miall from the University of Kent, and Steve Killelea, founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace.
The 2022 conference
The next Religion and Culture in Conflict and Peace conference will focus on impact and outcomes. It is scheduled to take place from Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 June 2022. The Call for Papers is now open; deadline for receipt of abstracts is 18 February 2022. For further details, visit the conference page.
In partnership with Peace Jam UK, the University of Winchester holds an annual conference for children and young people who are committed to developing themselves as young leaders, and bringing about positive change in their communities, and around the world. PeaceJam is a global organisation that works closely with Nobel Peace Laureates to encourage young people to build peace in their communities and get actively involved in making a positive difference in the world (www.peacejam.org.uk). Every year we have been honoured by the presence of an inspiring speaker, including Nobel Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Betty Williams, Tawakkol Karman and Jody Williams.
The conference is attended by over 300 children and young people, from schools across the country. Many of our own students also support this excellent cause. They participate in numerous workshops and social action projects on the environment, development and peacebuilding.
University of Winchester students are given the opportunity to train and act as ‘mentors’, which involves learning how to facilitate reflective discussions, lead ice-breaker activities and mentor younger attendees. Every year up to 40 students can volunteer. Winchester students and ex-students also sit on the planning committee, giving them valuable experience of project and event planning.
In 2016, the University welcomed the Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum, an indigenous woman from Guatemala who was awarded her Nobel Peace Prize "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples". View photos from PeaceJam 2016 here (with thanks to the Jersey Rotary Club).
Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum, centre, with CRRP Director Dr Mark Owen and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Joy Carter
In 2017, we welcomed Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist responsible for leading a women's nonviolent peace movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
Peacejam 2018 was cancelled due to snow but in March 2019 we were delighted to welcome Betty Williams, co-founder of the Community of Peace People, who energised the young people with her stories of creating change in Northern Ireland and across the world.