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Religion, Peace and Conflict

In the 1990s, the discussion about the role of both religion and migration in social stability, peace and conflicts emerged as salient (Appleby 2000; Cavanaugh 2009; Freilich and Guerette 2006; Castles 2010). The changing economic, political and cultural landscape of that period, which many of the chapters of this volume referred to, was shaped by various clashing histories and interests in the Black Sea. The diversity of these histories and interests was often translated as a possible risk to security issues connected to different ethnic goals, separatism and territorial conflicts. Furthermore, another threat of potential volatility stemmed from the political and economic competitive agendas (especially in issues pertaining to energy) between the USA and Eurasia invested in the Black Sea (Aydin and Triantaphyllou 2015). Do these security issues interrelate with the religious histories and the mobilities discussed in the volume? Could there be a link between religion, migration and conflict?

According to Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall (2005, 13), conflict signifies ‘an expression of the heterogeneity of interests values and beliefs that arise as new formations generated by social change come up against inherited constraints’. This definition goes against perceptions of conflict which favoured state and state actors as the only source of aggression and violence. Instead, it tries to discern wider agendas and agencies contributing to conflicts. This volume has sketched out the extent to which religious processes and different migrations have combined multiple actors, institutions or power relations both in the past and in the present. In this way, the chapters have tried to avoid endemic perceptions of violence within religious identities, migrations or cultures.

Another issue that is important in the study of conflict is the way it is exerted. For example, does it involve direct mechanisms (army, police mobilisation, guerrilla forces)? Or does it entail more structural and less visible processes (poverty and inequality, legal framework, cultural divisions)? The last dichotomy between direct/indirect conflict is pivotal for Galtung (1969, 1975) as a way to study, apart from conflict, peace as well. In his seminal book on Violence, Peace and Peace Research (1969, 167-191), Galtung pointed out that peace can be distinguished between ‘positive or negative peace’. The former corresponded to the absence of indirect or structural violence whereas the latter referred to the lack of direct violence. The distinction is central as many of the chapters in this volume do not address issues of direct violence especially since the 1990s, but they stress push factors, like social inequalities or poverty that led to immigration.

Furthermore, these wider definitions of conflict and peace could also address in a more nuanced way questions about the conditions which could generate violence or not, and how they could connect to religion or migration. For example, what does religious conflict mean? Does it refer to the ways religious texts (the Bible, the Quran etc.) address issues of violence, and if yes then of what kind (sacrifice, armed conflict, tolerance of social hierarchy and inequality)? This take on religious conflict could be significant as during the last decades sacred texts, like the Quran, have been accused as cultivating hate and aggression. Does religious conflict refer to the ways religious leaders could mobilise their followers to social unrest or conflict? Or else, could conflict emerge from forms of religiosity that could be more (in)tolerant towards others? Moreover, among whom does conflict arise? As Best and Rakodi (2011, 5) have argued, ‘conflict and violence often had a religious dimension whether they occur between adherents of different faith traditions or rivals within a faith tradition’.

It should be stressed, here, that all the above issues could be strongly interrelate attached to migration. For instance, how could different forms of conflict and violence prompt different categories of mobility and migration, for example, labour migrations, exile or other types of movement? How does each different category of mobility relate to religion? Or on the positive side, how could immigrant networks, often faith based, contribute to peace-building? Which are the conditions that encourage the one outcome or the other? Are there special regional factors that privilege violence/peace or not? Discussing conflict and peace in connection to religions and migrations postulated that there could be overlapping relations among these different categories.

Furthermore, the above definitions underlined that all these different categories are strongly connected to issues of identity, in/out-group formations, ideologies, institutions and economic or political agendas. What the chapters examine in this collection postulate that competitions have existed over resources and power within or across ethnic groups and national communities in different periods. These processes have been studied against the changing context of globalisation which has reshaped the Black Seas as a region through specific paradigms, like multicultural- ism and cosmopolitanism, but also, as a security challenge. In the following section, we will try to draw some remarks by revisiting the chapters of this volume through the perspective of conflict.

This was considered as necessary for two reasons. First, the interrelation between religion and conflict was debated during the production of this book This volume was a long journey for both of us as editors during which religion and migration due to war and conflict reached our doorsteps as lived reality and not only as academic categories. The long and bloody war in Syria (since 2011) and the refugee flows generated heated discussions about the so-called Islamic violence not only in Greece but also in other counties of the Black Sea, like Turkey or Bulgaria. Moreover, these changes stimulated debates in relation to religion, in particular, Islam and its present position in the European societies or its alleged ties to conflict. Moreover, these debates produced representations of refugees as a risk for social stability and peace. In this framework, the issues discussed in this volume became even more salient as they offered a comparative perspective among communities and cultures in order to challenge essentialist perceptions about religion and migration. Another emerging question was whether this war and its results could affect the societies and states in the Black Sea and in what ways. Of course, we cannot answer these questions here. But the prism of conflict and peace could provide insights regarding the above questions and how they could be further explored in a wider discussion about religions, migrations and conflicts.

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