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Based on an analysis of the religious language found in contemporary peace agreements, Robert Forster and Christine Bell argue in Chapter 44 that such language should not be dismissed as culturally specific rhetoric, but in fact it serves important functions in the construction of peace agreements, intended to provide pathways from conflict. They identify six functions in which references to God and faith serve in the search for negotiated compromise between parties who are distrustful of each other. The functions comprise: reinforcing moral obligations to reconcile; affirming unity in a common heritage and faith; reinforcing a shared national ethos by affirming shared belief; acknowledging that political forces are subject to transcendent forces; endorsing other values associated with ‘the good’; and bringing divine forces to bear on implementation. The authors suggest the mediators should better understand the ways in which religious belief can be understood as a conflict resolution resource even in contexts in which it is connected to the reasons for conflict.

Christine Bell

Professor of Constitutional Law
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Law School