August 9, 2008


UTER #334086, VOL 31, ISS 10

A Pact with the Devil? Elite Alliances as Bases of Violent Religious Conflicts

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one finds religious leaders that are accepted as legitimate interpreters of the Received 30 November 2007. securing the supply of weapons and equipment and systematically organizing combat operations. but rebellions will be sustained only as long as these driving forces are directed and organized rationally. Germany This article aims at explaining religious conflicts on the basis of an elite-centered theoretical model. The latter try to use religion as a resource for mobilization. then how can their apparent religious dimension be explained? A closer look at the role of political and religious elites can in many cases solve this seeming paradox. Hence.1 They emerge when the warring factions are capable of recruiting and training combatants. Mass movements without centralized coordination will quickly be crushed by government troops before conflicts can evolve into full-fledged civil wars. Melanchthonstr. Interpretations are a natural element of every religion. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Empirical analyses find that religions and religious differences rarely play a central role as root causes of violent conflicts. The first try to protect their religious communities and hope to expand their religious influence. accepted 9 February 2008. Post-graduate Research Programme. Colombia. Nigeria. emotions like hatred and desires for revenge play a central role. E-mail: alexander. writings.de 1 . Sri Lanka. Elites are also critical for the religious dimension of many conflicts. however.1080/10576100802339193 1 2 A Pact with the Devil? Elite Alliances as Bases of Violent Religious Conflicts ALEXANDER DE JUAN Post-Graduate Research Programme University of Tuebingen Tuebingen. 2008 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group. Longlasting violent struggles like the ones in the Philippines. Accordingly. At first sight many civil wars seem to be governed by senseless brutality and uncontrollable hatred. Closer examinations. Sierra Leone. This seems to contradict the hardly disputable fact that religions play a prominent role in many contemporary civil wars like Iraq. University of Tuebingen. In every religious community. The same holds true for the religious dimension of many conflicts. 2008 15:25 Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. or Angola depend on anticipatory and goal-oriented planning. Religious elites have to persuade the believers of the religious nature of their struggle. If religion is not the cause of these conflicts. 36. Violent movements can only pertain on the long run if political elites organize and coordinate them centrally.de-juan@unituebingen. Germany. Abstract religious myths. 72074 Tuebingen. Doubtlessly. one can observe a high degree of instrumental rationality on the elite level of many violent conflicts. LLC ISSN: 1057-610X print / 1521-0731 online DOI: 10. reveal a different picture. 31:1–16. or India.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. Address correspondence to Alexander de Juan. in many cases religious conflicts can be traced back to alliances of religious and political elites. and contents can only be applied to a permanently changing reality if they are interpreted.

They need their religious authority to persuade the believers of the religious nature of the conflict and thus get access to religious resources that can be used for mobilization. De Juan common religious traditions. different authors have pointed to the rational and strategic background of such alliances:5 cooperation emerges when the two parties are persuaded that the alliance will help them realize their respective aims.3 Accordingly. Catholic Croats. expand their religious influence. apply abstract theological content. this holds true for religious calls for violence. not religious differences. The crucial role of such alliances for the perpetuation of religious conflicts is many cases hidden behind all too easy explanations on the basis of primordial religious identities and differences. Mainly referring to the religious legitimization of dictatorial regimes. Milosevic needed the Orthodox Church to legitimize his claim for power as well as his nationalistic and expansionist agenda. The first try to use religion as an instrument for mobilization. 2008 15:25 2 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 A. their acceptance by the believers depends primarily on the religious authority of the interpreters. Rather. religious leaders persuade the believers of the religious necessity of the violent struggle. in many cases they result from cooperation of political and religious elites. and Muslim Bosnians are interpreted as the cause of the war in 1992.6 The antagonisms between Orthodox Serbs.7 Hence it is not “ancient hatred” that is responsible for the religious dimension of the Bosnian conflict. Recent studies. extend their religious influence and thus to realize their personal religious agendas. The latter cooperate to protect their religious communities. not enmity. The war in Bosnia is often cited as a prime example of the virulent nature of religious differences. Again. Rather. This article will illustrate the central background and features of such alliances from the perspective of the cooperating actors. bloody armed struggles between Muslims and Christians have been going on for decades.8 In Nigeria. Discrimination was hardly practiced and there were many instances of mixed marriages: both indications that all three religious groups lived side by side in relative amity. They interpret concrete situations in the light of their belief systems. The same holds true for cooperation in violent conflicts. contradict this view: before the outbreak of the hostilities. Political elites plan and coordinate combat operations. peoples’ religious differences and irreconcilable claims to truth seem to be the origin of these “religious conflicts.2 It is part of the genuine essence of religion that these interpretations can neither be proved nor rejected.” However. Thailand. Political–Religious Cooperation Cooperation of political and religious elites can be observed in many violent conflicts like in the Philippines.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. however. So-called religious conflicts are not the natural result of religious differences or religious intolerance. Chechnya. Political elites cooperate with accepted and influential religious leaders to achieve their political goals. Religious elites cooperate with strong political actors to get access to material and immaterial resources that help them to protect their respective religious communities. Orthodox clerics supported him with the aim to regain their former influence in the Serbian society. constitute the source of . The final section addresses obstacles to the cooperation.4 As for every other aspect of religion. and realize their religious agendas. detailed case studies demonstrate that political and economic interests. The resulting entanglement of the two functions outlined earlier constitutes the origin of many violent conflicts with strong religious dimensions. and thus provide the believers with religious norms and guiding principles. or India. orthodox clerics and nationalistic political elites have cooperated to mutually support each other in the realization of their respective aims. religious identifications did not play a central role for the majority of the population.

Muslim elites in the Northern states have been losing their political influence on the central government and fear for their income from state oil revenues.12 The emergence and stability of these alliances can only be explained if more is known about the motivations of the cooperating parties. they needed the support of local Muslim clerics. 2008 15:25 A Pact with the Devil? 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 3 the conflict. Especially in situations where barely any alternatives exist to acquire wealth and influence they will compete for scarce political positions to get access to natural resources or international financial aid. Doubtlessly. or regional lines. the fight against the Hindu Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka could be interpreted as a violent defensive reaction by the Buddhist Singhalese. they can also be driven by personal convictions.10 Hence. rituals.9 In Sri Lanka. alliances of Serbian and Croatian nationalists and Orthodox and Catholic clerics have used . After the introduction of the general suffrage under the British colonial power. In order to make their threats credible and to secure the support of the northern population. What are their aims? How do they expect cooperation to support the realization of these aims? Under which circumstances can these motives be expected to be particularly strong? The following pages will propose some preliminary answers to these questions from the perspective of political elites and religious leaders. In this situation. if they are not able to acquire the needed political power in a peaceful way. Over the past years. In the Philippines. No matter which aims they try to realize. they used Islam to openly threaten the central government with the religious radicalization of their followers. for example. Several religious leaders were ready to support the elites to expand their religious influence.13 Fragmented societies can be integrated on the basis of common religious belief systems. In order to improve the prospects of violent strategies. religion can be used to underscore the dissimilarity of groups that have traditionally been integrated. they will use alternative means. The motives of this ambition are manifold. Mobilizations rely on the existence of groups that identify themselves as distinct communities and segregate themselves from other groups. From the perspective of political elites this is especially important when the population is fragmented along ethnic. 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 The Perspective of Political Elites Political elites strive for political power.11 Within the Buddhist establishment. fundamentalist proponents of a socially and politically active Buddhist clergy used the cooperation with these new nationalist elites to prevail over concurring interpretations and to foster their social–political agenda.14 On the other hand. they will try to make use of any accessible resource. One such alternative is the use of violence. many Buddhist Singhalese regard themselves as a minority in Southeast Asia and perceive their ethno-religious identity to be threatened. rebel leaders have used Islam to unite people from more than 30 different ethnicities against the central government. a look at the roots of the conflict clearly shows that different mechanisms have been decisive to the development of radical Sinhala-Buddhism. They used Buddhism to legitimize mass resettlements of Singhalese farmers to the northern part of Sri Lanka and thus allow the great land owners to safeguard their supremacy over the huge plantations in the South of the country. values or claims for justice. This internal solidarity and external separation can be intensified on the basis of religious narratives. In Bosnia. social. Religion can be interpreted as one such resource.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. However. and myths. the country’s elites feared the political and economic demands of their new constituency.

Where religious identities run parallel to other identities like nationality or ethnicity they can be used more effectively for the segregation from other communities can be particularly . the value of religious mobilizations is limited. political elites can get access to material resources like financial support. Hence. or international contacts. Thousands of rebels and their families lived in these “Terras Libres. formal characteristics of religious communities determine whether alliances with religious leaders can be an effective instrument for the required religious mobilization. religious symbols and narratives grew in importance when the conflict with the central government intensified. Put differently: they influence the effectiveness of religious agitations. for example. Structural features influence the value of the religious mobilizations itself. mobilizations on the basis of identified threats to religion have been particularly effective. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). ethnicity. This sacralization of a conflict is usually accompanied by a corresponding “satanization” of the enemy. when conflicts are interpreted in a transcendental religious context. if religious identities only play marginal roles or are of secondary importance as compared to other identities like nationality. For the Miskitu in Nicaragua for example. These classifications created strong feelings of fear and hatred in many Buddhist believers. De Juan religion to stress the national and cultural unity of the Serbs and Croats and to portray their differences as insurmountable divergences. the resolution of the conflict without the total annihilation of the enemy seemed impossible. too.18 Finally. or clan. rebel groups in the Philippines and Thailand cooperated with local Muslim leaders to get access to mosques and religious schools (madrassahs) for recruitment and mobilization. Islam has traditionally been an important identity marker. a mobilization on the basis of diagnosed threats to Islam would have been little promising as compared to a mobilization of the basis of Albanian nationalism. can religious leaders actually persuade the believers of the necessity to fight? It is close to trivial that religious mobilization campaigns will be especially effective in cases where religion plays a central role in the identity formation of the people. informal networks. Among Muslims in the Philippines and Chechnya. Buddhist monks in Cambodia publicly described the communists in Cambodia as “Mara” or “Dhmil” (atheist devil). If he is identified as a powerful and mythic embodiment of evil.20 The specific value of these resources depends on different factors. the possibility of a peaceful solution is practically out of the question. Accordingly. cooperated with protestant clerics to establish kibbutz-like camps in the Angolan highlands. fears are created that underscore the impossibility of peaceful compromise. Similarly. Local clerics interpreted the conflict as war with the personification of the religious evil and thus excluded the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the conflict with the Sandinistas. Simultaneously.19 These resources are of special value in regions where no alternative infrastructure exists. The concept of holy wars is crucial in this context. that is. political elites have in many situations cooperated with religious elites to frame conflicts in religious terms.” The cooperation with religious leaders enabled the rebels to run schools and hospitals and to mobilize international financial support. On the other hand. for example. Hence.16 Accordingly. The relation to other identity markers matters. Hence. religion played a minor role in the violent conflict at the end of 1990s. religion plays a secondary role as an identity marker.15 Further. for example.21 In Kosovo.22 But it is not only the absolute importance of religious identities that influence the effectiveness of religious mobilizations. through cooperation with legitimate religious leaders.17 Similarly. They determine whether mobilizations on the basis of religious agendas can be successful at all.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. 2008 15:25 4 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 A.

both identity markers reinforced each other in the formation of distinctive groups and have been used effectively to polarize the different communities. laic organizations). If religious communities dispose of mechanisms that prevent such reductions of complexity. or Burma. The believers will only accept such simplifying interpretations if they are not able to recognize them as such.28 The result is that an open and critical discussion about religion and different traditions cannot emerge. . the potential of religious mobilizations is limited when religious borders are not parallel to other important identity markers. India. the interpretational leeway of religious leaders is reduced. Political elites will only form and maintain alliances when their cooperation partners are able to transmit the needed radical religious interpretations to their constituencies. without be challenged by alternative interpretations. in Sri Lanka Buddhist monks are traditionally concerned about the unity of the religious establishment (sangha).. and strong endowments with material and financial resources can contribute to mobilization more effectively than informal communities with weak resource dispositions. Hence. as such spatial concentration reduces the costs for organisation and coordination. in eastern Congo numerous communities are largely isolated from any wider religious structure. These characteristics inhibit the believers’ access to interpretations of different religious leaders and restrict their ability to question selective religious interpretations on the basis of alternative religious messages. centralized formal structures.g. for example. religious mobilizations are hindered by the fact that the ethnic groups do not correspond to the religious ones. Religious calls for violence are highly selective: while those traditions are stressed that legitimate violence. The establishment of such monopolies of interpretation is possible when religious communities are isolated on the transnational level. Finally.27 Finally. In the Senegalese Casamance region. the believers do not have access to public discussions about different theological positions and controversies. numerous conflicts between and within different Sufi-brotherhoods and self claimed Islamic reformist movements lead to a strong segregation of different Islamic groups. among the Karen in Burma or the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Thailand. Regarding religious leaders’ interpretational freedom. Similarly. In such a situation local religious leaders can easily provide the believers with radical and ethnically discriminating interpretations. In such situation agitations on the basis of religious agendas risk to obviate potential support in the population and might even trigger support for the military opposition. Accordingly. it seems plausible that religious mobilizations are more promising when the believers are regionally concentrated like in the Philippines. and Chechnya religious and ethnic/national borders run largely parallel. This.25 The second central question is whether the cooperation with religious elites itself can be effective. Indonesia. it is essential that religious leaders dispose of a certain degree of interpretational freedom. decreases the effectiveness of alliances with religious elites from the political elites’ perspective.26 This mutual isolation deprives the believers of the access to alternative interpretations and thus increases the interpretational freedom of individual religious leaders. 2008 15:25 A Pact with the Devil? 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 5 effective. In Nigeria.23 In Sri Lanka. Similarly. Hence. when their organization is decentralized and if they are only weakly integrated inward. In all three cases the fate of religion has been directly linked to the fate of the nation. the first crucial question is whether they are able to shield their constituencies from alternative. deviances from the theological mainstream are considered a grave sin. if their grass-root organizations are underdeveloped (e. potentially concurring interpretations of other religious leaders. in turn. Bosnia. In this context. On the other hand.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. contradicting elements are oppressed.24 Communities that dispose of international contacts. the institutional capacity and the regional concentration of religious communities are essential.

Religious leaders are often depicted as being irrational because their aims at least partly derive from otherworldly beliefs and inspirations. will they accept selective. Only if they are not educated in the central myths. religious leaders will try to shape societies and political systems according to these social and political visions. mosques. The fact that in many cases religious leaders’ aims do not have worldly sources does not mean that they will not try to realize them in a rational. The enlargement of the religious community.31 The Perspective of Religious Elites The primary aim of religious elites is the protection of their religious communities and the expansion of their religious influence. They can try to expand their religious influence because they are convinced that they follow the only true belief and thus want to spread it and realize the social visions that derive from it. religious leaders will try to prevent conversions to other religions and—in cases of proselytizing communities—foster the expansion of their community. Neumaier finds that the Buddhist population has systematically been cut off from their traditions by the British colonial regime. the dominance of specific religious interpretations within religious communities and the implementation of specific social and political agendas do not only depend on the attractiveness of specific religious streams. with respect to alternative religious communities.30 In several violent conflicts. Hence.32 Similarly. In the occupied territories. They can try to gain religious influence in order to acquire personal power and wealth. these general aims imply several concrete objectives. Both aims can derive from profane and selfish interests or from sincere religious convictions.29 Referring to civil war in Sri Lanka. Eva K. religious seminars for supporters and combatants of the movement are organized regularly. they can try to protect their communities because they feel responsible for their constituencies. Whether they derive from selfish or genuinely religious motives. goal-oriented way. Elites can try to protect their communities in order to safeguard their own position within these communities. First of all. The success of individual religious leaders will also depend on their financial endowment as well as the present political context. The realization of all these objectives depends among others on the religious leaders’ access to different resources.33 Religious leaders need specific material and organizational resources for the maintenance and enlargement of their religious influence: churches.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. 2008 15:25 6 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 A. they will try to defend their individual beliefs and convictions against alternative ones and to expand their internal religious influence. or temples as well . one-sided interpretations. Hence. Some religious beliefs imply concrete social and political agendas. Their disposition of material and financial resources as well as positive or negative political discriminations will influence religious leaders’ ability to realize their objectives. De Juan Religious leaders’ interpretational leeway cannot only be restricted by alternative religious elites but also by the believers themselves. which fostered the spreading of an artificial “protestant Buddhism” prone to nationalistic and militant agitation against the Tamils. In the camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines. within their communities. Hence. schools have been opened to disperse religious interpretations that legitimize the violent resistance against the central government. rituals. for example. they will cooperate with strong political elites when they expect that these alliances will provide them with access to the resources they need to realize their objectives. rebel movements themselves have become aware of the importance of religious education. and narratives and if they are not aware of the complexity of their religious traditions. Scott Appleby blames the “religious illiteracy” of Croats and Serbs for the population’s tolerance of the politics of violence in Bosnia. However. On the other hand. such assessments mistakenly refer rationality to the aims and not to the means.

and an internal division of the church has been fostered by the creation of a separate Macedonian Church.35 The Orthodox Church in Russia used its privileged position as the state religion to foster wide discriminating measures against the Catholic Church. The exercise and transmission of religion needs specific institutional and juridical conditions. For their institutional survival.43 Such existential dependencies from material support are not the only factors that can increase the value of the aforementioned political resources. many Catholic bishops formed alliances with the FSLN in order to secure their own support from the population. Moreover. religious communities are dependant on a minimum of the abovementioned resources. This access is dependant on specific laws and concessions from the government. they will try to get cooperate with political elites. companies from eastern Nicaragua in the 1960s and 1970s has been accompanied by the loss of their central sources of income. In Iraq. The increasing attacks by Sunni extremists led to increasing calls for revenge from the Shi’ite population. and Buddhist holidays were also introduced.or intra-religious concurrence or political discrimination by . Similarly. If they do not dispose of a minimum of these resources by themselves. for the Moravian Church. despite the well-known fact that this might lead to a re-escalation of the tensions with the Muslim minority. churches have been expropriated. When Buddhism was declared the state religion in Burma. Buddhist religious education was introduced in state schools and universities. Countless Buddhist monks went to the street and demonstrated to make Buddhism the state religion.42 Due to its extremely low resource endowment. In the name of the separation of church and state. This prevented them from taking a more critical stance toward the increasingly popular Miskitu-nationalism. religious school education has been abolished. Al-Sistani’s calls for moderation contradicted the Shi’ites growing demands for a religious legitimization of the use of violence against the Sunnites and thus contributed to the decline of his religious influence. Perceived or real threats stemming from strong inter.37 Finally.34 Especially the status of state religion is accompanied by different privileges. 2008 15:25 A Pact with the Devil? 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 318 319 320 321 322 7 as clerics and social services have to be financed.41 The Orthodox Church in Serbia has been marginalized by the communist regime of the Yugoslavian Federation for decades.38 Accordingly.36 Recent developments in Thailand impressively demonstrate how the status of state religion and the accompanying privileges are still motivating many religious communities to become active. Hence. the church has been especially accessible for cooperation with nationalistic Serbian politicians.40 The specific value of all these resources is primarily dependant on the present position of the religious leader. Access to religious education and health services plays an important role in the proselytizing efforts of many religious communities. the moderate Shiite Cleric Seyyid Ali Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has continuously lost his popular support since the fall of the Ba’ath-regime. statues of Buddha were built in public buildings. organizational concessions can also consist of the discrimination and suppression of concurring religious communities and leaders. that have time and again motivated religious leaders to become politically active to realize such a special status for their own religious communities. With the growing popularity of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in Nicaragua.39 The refusal to support popular conflicts can cost religious elites their authority among the believers. popularity can be a motive for cooperation. Especially for less established religious leaders religious legitimization of these programs can be an opportunity to increase their personal religious influence.S. in many cases very popular conflicts and political elites have been supported by religious elites.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. the pastors were increasingly dependant of the local economy and their fate was bound to the fate of their constituencies. the withdrawal of U. Political messages and programs can mobilize strong support.

In many developing countries established churches constitute the only possibility beneath the state to acquire wealth and power. much more profane issues can lead to conflicts among different religious leaders. 2008 15:25 8 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 339 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 371 A.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. such processes are especially visible with respect to the aggressive proselytizing efforts of different Pentecostal churches. the increasing number of different Christian and Muslim communities has intensified the competition of their respective religious leaders. and conceptions of society can clash within single religious communities.51 . The proliferation of evangelical groups after the peace process in the years 2002 and 2003 intensified the abovementioned minority complex of many Buddhist Singhalese. for example. the Catholic Church in South America and Africa has cooperated especially closely with colonial governments and dictatorial regimes when their dominant social influence has been threatened by successful proselytizing of protestant communities. Simultaneously. De Juan antagonistic political elites can be strong motivations to form for alliances with political elites. clerical Hutu elites used their strong connections to the Habyarimana regime and its radical anti-Tutsi policy to secure their positions within the Catholic Church. the conflict of local Franciscan friars and diocese priests played a crucial role in the religious legitimization of local militias during the civil war in the 1990s. the established hierarchy felt its privileged position threatened und kept up its strong connection to political elites even in the wake of the beginning genocide. charismatic and laic movements within the church grew in importance. religious elites have on many occasions tried to cooperate with local or national strongmen. In many cases the leaders of such pressured communities have sought the support of political elites.44 This can be due to successful proselytizing efforts of other communities. leaders of “threatened” communities often cooperate with political elites to protect their constituencies.45 Similarly. for example. competitions for material resources or power can emerge in religious communities comparable to the ones on the state level. The origin of this conflict goes back to the Middle Ages and centers on dogmatic differences and competition for material resources. While the Catholic hierarchy in Bosnia and Croatia had a moderate sympathy for the Tudjman regime. Case studies demonstrate that cooperation of political elites and religious leaders are especially likely if religious communities face a loss of relative relevance and influence as compared to other communities. many local priests and Franciscan friars played an active role in the promotion of nationalism in order to expand their local influence. As a result. Thus. worldviews.47 Similarly. In their attempts to stabilize their constituencies.50 Beside such dogmatic matters. or demographic changes resulting from differing birth and death rates. Hence. In Rwanda. Different theological positions. arise between liberal and orthodox streams or between different theological positions of clerical elites on the one hand and the religious middle management on the other hand. for example.46 Currently. many Buddhist monks again turned to nationalistic political elites for example to realize a law against “unethical conversions” from Buddhism to other religions. De Silva and Bartholomeusz describe how different members of the religious hierarchy are in a spiritual concurrence to each other and how they use their contacts to political elites to prevail over their rivals. internal situations of concurrence can act as strong motivations for religious leaders to cooperate with political elites. Conflicts can. In Nigeria.49 The driving force of internal conflicts can also be observed in Sri Lanka.48 In Bosnia. Hence. In the 1990s the Catholic hierarchy was under mounting pressure due to increasing calls for a reformation of the church. migration. In many countries their efforts to enlarge their communities is very successful and thus leads to strong perceptions of threat among established religious communities. to secure its clerical supremacy.

he tried to reduce the Church’s influence through repressive laws. political elites might perceive them as threat to their absolute rule. President Jayawardene. Accordingly. in many cases they are far from static. and Nigeria demonstrate that alliances of religious leaders and political elites can be relatively stable. Whereas the effectiveness of religious agitations depends on context factors that can barely be influenced purposefully. One reason why the Serbian Orthodox Church supported nationalistic politicians in Bosnia and Serbia was the expectation of a privileged position within a “pure” greater Serbia. the Sharia was replaced by secular Thai law. try to weaken a specific religious community because they are supported from an alternative one that demands discriminating practices against their concurrence. Political elites’ willingness to cooperate with religious leaders depends on the value of religious mobilizations. On the other hand. such internal conflicts do not seem to endanger the cooperation itself. different political elites have tried to realize their aims against the will of their cooperation partners. local elites have been deprived of their power. one has to ask how these foundations can be influenced. Instead. the church criticized him severely and finally declared him as a traitor of the Serbian population. Israel. the basis of influence of the Ulama has been destroyed. When Milosevic distanced himself from his expansionistic plans due to mounting international pressure. In this context strong alliances emerged between Protestant clerics and the UNITA. However. Karadzic became the new central cooperation partner of the Orthodox Church. for example.56 Similarly. the effectiveness of cooperating with . Each time political elites agreed to negotiate with the Tamil rebels radical monks have exerted pressure on them to prevent any concessions to the minority’s claims for autonomy. In the course a forced integration-program by the Thai government in the predominantly Muslim south of the country.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9.57 However. rejected by the Sri Lankan Sangha. has tried to implement his personal religious interpretations and to pursue a policy of free market economy.54 In Angola Protestant churches were first persecuted by the colonial regime and later by the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government. if religious communities and their leaders dispose of strong influence in the society. In former Zaire President Mobutu perceived the powerful Catholic Church as a threat to the totalitarian claims of his single party. and local Islamic schools were closed and replaced by public ones.53 This way. Ireland. In the “Terras Libres” these clerics have been integrated in decision-making processes and were allowed to maintain their international contacts and to hold their church services. Many clerics began supporting rebel groups in their fight against the central government. as long as the aforementioned foundations of the alliance persist. Moreover. This holds especially true for symmetric alliances in which the cooperating parties dispose of comparable power and resources like in Serbia or Sri Lanka. Practical measures can either focus on the motives for cooperation of the political elites or on the motives of the religious leaders. in Sri Lanka time and again conflicts emerged within the alliance of Buddhist monks and nationalistic politicians. 2008 15:25 A Pact with the Devil? 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 389 390 391 392 393 394 395 396 397 398 399 400 401 402 403 404 405 406 407 408 409 410 411 412 413 414 415 416 417 418 9 Such threats can not only emanate from alternative religious communities or concurring religious leaders but also from political elites.52 Such political discrimination can motivate religious leaders to form alliances with political counterparties.55 Obstacles to Political–Religious Alliances The conflicts in Sri Lanka. for example. Accordingly. Within such alliances conflicts and concurrence can emerge that can lead to an alteration of the specific features of the cooperation. They might. One reason for might be that they are supported from alternative religious leaders that demand the discrimination of the relevant community.

it is essential that religious communities are not dependant on political actors for securing their institutional survival. Communication channels have to exist through which the believer gets access to different interpretations (e. The Israel Interfaith Association. De Juan religious elites can be reduced by diminishing religious leaders’ interpretational freedom. The establishment of base communities can act in a similar way. for example. Practical steps have to aim at the overcoming of literal interpretations and the promotion of the believers’ awareness of the complexity of their own and other religious traditions.60 Dialogue and contact programs on the grass-roots level can have comparable effects. Another concrete measure that can reduce religious leaders’ freedom of interpretation is religious education.63 Similarly. the Shi’ite clergy in Iraq traditionally has a relatively high degree of autonomy . has been engaged in dialogue programs since 1959 to foster mutual understanding and respect among different faiths and ethnicities. for example. The resource endowment of political elites and their ability to support religious leaders can barely be influenced externally. The Church’s strong independent influence in the society enabled it to maintain its independent and critical voice even during the military campaign against the Mobutu-regime in the 1990s. Despite the drastic repressive measures of the Mobutu-regime during the “Authencit´ -campaign” the Catholic e hierarchy was able to uphold its critical stance toward the government. Hence. concrete measures can aim at establishing appropriate communication channels within religious communities. the actual presence of different interpretations is crucial. First of all. In this context.59 Recent studies show that the susceptibility to radical and selective interpretations decreases with an increasing degree of religious development and education. The few existing empirical studies on the impact of such initiatives have moderately optimistic results that justify the support of dialogue and contact programs. Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye established the Muslim–Christian Dialogue and Interfaith Mediation Center in Nigeria to foster mutual respect for the religious. one crucial measure is the integration of the believers into complex religious structures in which they have access to different religious authorities. for example. Contrary to what has been said referring to the political elites. There is no need for complex structures and a lively debate on different interpretations if the believers cannot access them. or information leaflets).g. 2008 15:25 10 419 420 421 422 423 424 425 426 427 428 429 430 431 432 433 434 435 436 437 438 439 440 441 442 443 444 445 446 447 448 449 450 451 452 453 454 455 456 457 458 459 460 461 462 463 464 465 466 467 A. they provided the believers with an opportunity to critically discuss their beliefs and interpretations and thus acted as obstacles to the religious manipulation by clerics that were close to the state. It seems more promising to concentrate on the factors that induce religious leaders to form alliances. the factors that motivate religious leaders to forma alliances can rather be influenced than the specific value of the cooperation. radio transmissions.58 Further. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). stresses that destructive religious mythifications like in Bosnia or Sri Lanka can only be effective if the parties to the conflict are isolated from each other. cultural. Their contacts to the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) helped South African communities to uphold a critical stance toward elements of their religious traditions that could have been used to legitimate the use of violence against the Apartheid regime. pastoral letters. One example is the Catholic Church in the DRC. The disposition of financial and organizational resources that enable religious communities to survive independently reduces their motivation to cooperate with political elites.. Similarly.62 Concrete measures may also try to influence religious leaders’ readiness to cooperate with political elites.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. Practical steps could be the transnational integration of religious communities. and historic heritage of both religions. Marc Gopin.61 Encounter and dialogue can restrict religious leaders’ freedom of interpretation in a way that stereotype judgements of other religions are inhibited by the believer’s personal experience.

70 Discriminatory practices that often accompany such connections can act as motivation for religious leaders to cooperate with opposition movements. Catholic. practical measures can include the reduction of obstacles to the autonomy of religious communities as well as focused financial support. the Catholic Church in Chile was able to free itself of its dependence from the government and to take a critical position toward the Pinochet-regime. and Protestant religious leaders meet regularly to discuss topics of shared interest.68 Comparable initiatives are not only important among but also within religious communities. the enhancement of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state plays a major role in the prevention of political–religious cooperation.64 In this context.65 Similarly. on the basis of a simple elite-centered theoretical model. For example.and intra-religious initiatives that aim at establishing contacts and organizing dialogues on the level of the religious leaders are crucial in the context. This independence allowed Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani to keep a critical distance from Shi’ite insurgency leaders and to call the believers to moderation. A study conducted by Jonathan Fox finds that a separation of church and state can only be observed in 22 percent of the 152 analyzed countries. it aims at identifying some of the dynamics that are relevant to the religion–conflict nexus. research can either restrict itself to mere descriptions of the role of religions in violent conflicts as to stay as close as possible to the observable reality or it can try to approach the complex reality analytically step by step.66 Beside the advancement of religious communities’ autonomy practical measures can aim at reducing perceived threats by alternative religions and religious leaders. Rather. Accordingly. In Tanzania for example. in Bosnia the ecumenical relations between the three communities were very weak. . practical measures can aim at reducing perceived threats stemming from antagonistic political elites. because the believers are obligated to support their religious leaders directly. 2008 15:25 A Pact with the Devil? 468 469 470 471 472 473 474 475 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 486 487 488 489 490 491 492 493 494 495 496 497 498 499 500 501 502 503 11 from state institutions. the increasing inter-religious competition due to the inflow of evangelical and Islamic groups led to the establishment of an interreligious council where Muslim. due to the increasing funding of its human rights program. In the southern Philippines the ending of martial law was accompanied by increasing funding of local mosques and religious schools by international donors.69 Finally.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. Hence. Before the civil war this mutual isolation strengthened the conjunction of national and religious identities. This enabled many local clerics to free themselves from local patronage and to take a more critical stance toward the violent struggle for independence. Inter. 504 505 506 507 508 509 510 511 512 513 Conclusion The religion–conflict nexus is too complex to be comprehensively explained on the basis of a simple theoretical model. even if the classification is relatively tolerant.67 Such perceived threats can be reduced through a fortification of the ecumenical relations. The second Vatican Council introduced the National Conferences of Bishops to make the national churches more independent from national governments. Every religion tried to enhance its position in the state and felt threatened in this aim by the other communities. It leaves open a lot of important questions and does not seek to explain all of the manifold ways in which religion can influence conflicts. In the 1990s the Sri Lankan Sangha has systematically tried to enhance the relationships of the three existing monk orders. Religion can influence conflicts in many different ways that can hardly be traced back to one common causal mechanism. The amelioration of the intra-religious relations reduced conflicts within the religious establishment and thus made it harder for politicians to get the support of individual religious leaders. This article follows the second strategy.

pp. “Introduction. Perceived threats by alternative religious communities and concurring religious leaders can be reduced through contact and dialogue initiatives on the elite level. ed. 1993). Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. 793–807. Religion between Violence and Reconciliation (W¨ rzburg: Ergon Verlag. 552–576. A closer look at such alliances indicates different starting points for concrete measures that might make the emergence and sustainability of political–religious cooperation less likely. the postulation of practical measures herein are not meant as recipes for concrete measures.. they are intended to stimulate a discussion on possible concrete provisions that is remote from the rather fatalist stance of primordialist explanations of the role of religion in conflicts. Religion and International Relations (New York: Palgrave. The illustrations in this article rely primarily on anecdotal evidence rather than on systematic empirical analysis. pp. 2000). DC: United States Institute of Peace Press. Peoples versus States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century (Washington. pp.” Journal of Peace Research. Rapoport. u 2002).: Rowman & Littlefield. See. Simultaneously. 299–317. 117–118. 1–27. “Religion and International Conflict. Scott Appleby. 49(4) (1997).” The Journal of Conflict Resolution. 2000). Violence. 44(6) (2000). eds. Simultaneously. 429–461.” in Martin E. 2. 13(3) (2002).” Defence and Peace Economics. Hence. 542 543 544 545 546 547 548 549 550 551 552 553 554 555 556 557 558 559 560 561 Notes 1. 1997). Religion. Nicholas Sambanis. Appleby. 3. The same holds true for the religious dimension of many conflicts. 215–243. Fundamentalism and the State: Remaking Politics.” in Thomas Scheffler. pp. Marty and Scott R. in many cases the religious dimension of violent conflicts can be traced back to alliances of religious and political elites. Steven R. Michelle Garfinkel and Stergios Skaperdas. “Internal War—Causes and Cures.” World Politics. “Conflict without Misperceptions or Incomplete Information: How the Future Matters.. Thomas Scheffler. 2008 15:25 12 514 515 516 517 518 519 520 521 522 523 524 525 526 527 528 529 530 531 532 533 534 535 536 537 538 539 540 541 A. The first try to protect their religious communities and hope to expand their religious influence. David C. Economies. Ted Robert Gurr.. Preventing Deadly Conflict (New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York. pp. De Juan Violent movements can only pertain in the long run if political elites organize and coordinate them centrally. Cooperation on the basis of perceived threats by antagonistic political elites can be reduced through the realization of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. 2000). David. and Militancy (Chicago: University Press of Chicago. pp. Religion between Violence and Reconciliation. A specific reduction of religious leaders’ interpretation leeway through religious education and a structural protection of a religious pluralism seem especially promising. “Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Movements and Groups. rather. Wenche Hauge and Tanja Ellingsen. they dismiss any contradicting interpretations that call for peace or moderation. pp. The believers have to be persuaded of the religious nature of their struggle as well as the religious duty to use violence. the incentives of the religious elites have to be reduced. the proposed mechanisms and starting points for preventive measures are far from being elaborated. They disseminate religious calls for violence and provide their constituencies with religious interpretations that legitimate the use of violence. “Beyond Environmental Scarcity: Causal Pathways to Conflict. “A Review of Recent Advances and Future Directions in the Quantitative Literature on Civil Wars. Hence.” in Ken Dark. The central aim of the practical provisions is the reduction of the motives for cooperation. 1–23. Religious elites are essential in this context. for example. pp. The latter try to use religion as a resource for mobilization: if the structural conditions make religious agitation seem effective political elites will instrumentalize religion to realize their personal aims. The Ambivalence of the Sacred. Scott Thomas. Needless to say. . 35(3) (1998). ed.701xml UTER_A_334086 August 9. and Reconciliation (Lanham et al.

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