Rights, Religion and Atrocity Prevention - An explorative field study of the involvement of religious leaders in Uganda
Abstract: This study examines the nexus of human rights, atrocity prevention and the involvement of religious leaders in Uganda. States hold legal responsibility for preventing atrocity crimes, but influential nonstate actors also have a role in minimizing risks of mass atrocity crimes. Religious leaders can play an important role by influencing the behaviour of their adherents; either negatively by upholding intolerant messages of hostility, discrimination and incitement to violence, or positively by counteracting intolerance, discriminatory stereotyping and instances of hate speech. The study aimed to explore how religious leaders are involved in atrocity prevention, including searching for facilitators and barriers for such an involvement. For this purpose, the study used an explorative qualitative lifeworld approach with semi-structured interviews. Data collection included twelve individual interviews with religious leaders from four different denominations: 4 Anglican, 4 Pentecostal, 2 Catholic and 2 Muslim. Word by word transcription and thematic analysis was conducted on the material. The results show that religious leaders in Uganda can be naturally involved in atrocity prevention. Through leadership they can mitigate identity-based division by promoting inclusive societies, mediating in conflicts and advocating for peace. The study identified five facilitators and barriers for involving religious leaders in atrocity prevention. Facilitators are: (I) endorsing a theology of human dignity, (II) a self-understanding of mission and mandate, (III) promoting holistic peacebuilding, (IV) education, and (V) networking. Barriers are: (I) poverty levels among leaders as well as adherents, (II) political silencing or affiliation, (III) ignorant and selfish leadership, (IV) lack of resources, and (V) international relations. The study adds perspectives on the possibilities, through facilitators and barriers, to engage religious leaders in early response to risk factors of mass atrocities.
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