The Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme, RSIS, held the first session of its 5th Executive Programme (EP) from 10 to 12 February 2020. The session was attended by 40 policymakers, public servants, as well as community and religious leaders. The session focused on “Conflict Prevention and Resolution in an Age of Religious Violence” under the broader theme of “Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding”. The second session, which will focus on “Religious Peacebuilding and Dialogue in Secular Societies”, will be held later this year.
SRP’s Assistant Professor of Comparative Religion, Dr Rafal Stepien, opened the session by laying the groundwork. He uncovered various assumptions about religion, belief, and the sacred. He highlighted that religious conflicts were often concerning space and resources, or what is held as sacred, rather than about belief. Using historical examples and the Southern Thailand conflict as a case study, Prof Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Director of the Peace Information Centre, Thammasat University, asked participants to consider conflict as normal and to rethink their approach by embracing the complexities of conflict as opportunities for non-violent conflict transformation rather than focussing on conflict prevention.
Subsequently, over two days, Kent State University Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, Dr Tatsushi Arai, delivered a comprehensive workshop on essential skills for conflict analysis and transformation. Dr Arai urged participants to put theory to practice through interactive roleplay and step-by-step examination of two real-life case studies involving the local contexts in Singapore and Myanmar.