New research: Conflict sensitivity for interfaith action

Michelle Garred, PhD, and Johonna McCants-Turner, PhD, recently teamed up to produce two exciting new resources:

  1. Far Beyond a Tool: Do No Harm as Spiritual (Trans)Formation for Interfaith Cooperation and Action. This article appears the journal Development in Practice (Aug. 2022). The first 50 downloads are free!
  2. ‘Do No Harm’ Brief for Faith Leaders in Community Action. This is a quick-and-dirty summary for busy practitioners.

Johonna and Michelle also spent some time with Interfaith America staff in a conflict sensitivity workshop, discussing the applications of this global approach within the USA. 

Key Points in a Nutshell

The conflict sensitivity approach, particularly the tool called Do No Harm (DNH), shows unexpected potential as a catalyst for interfaith collaboration. Practicing DNH helps faith-inspired community action workers to: 

  • Understand the context of relationships within which they are working, 
  • Understand the interaction between your initiative and the context of relationships, and 
  • Act on that understanding to avoid negative impacts and maximize positive impacts.

Nobody foresaw the full range of DNH’s transformative power when it was created 25+ years ago by CDA Collaborative Learning Projects for the global development sector. Yet conflict sensitivity has expanded to the journalism sector, the business sector and, increasingly, the faith sector. Do No Harm has repeatedly shown practical usefulness and transformative power for faith-inspired actors, especially in multi-faith settings. 

As a planning tool, DNH helps faith-inspired actors grapple with the reality that all of their community action initiatives have the potential to either nurture or harm intergroup relationships. Good intentions do not always lead to harmonious relationships between groups with different identities. At the same time, every initiative holds the potential to build better relationships. DNH helps in making that potential a reality. 

As a catalyst for individual transformation, DNH can fuel a shift toward inclusive and reconciling mindsets. Among people of faith, this can become a profoundly spiritual process leading to:

  • Awareness –  of the potentially divisive or unifying effects of one’s actions, both short- and long-term.
  • Values – new or deepened values such as inclusion, acceptance, respect and fairness. 
  • Relationships – new or deepened collaboration and/or friendship with ‘the other.’
  • Theology – new or increased emphasis on peacemaking and justice within one’s own faith tradition.

We’re excited about the future of DNH in the faith sector, including the current religious space in North America. For information or support, please feel free to reach out to us. 

Published by Michelle G. Garred

Just Peace researcher, strategist and evaluator

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