"Religion, Civil War, and International Order"
Discussion Paper 2006-03, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Author: Monica Duffy Toft, Former Associate Professor of Public Policy; Former Board Member, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Former Director, Initiative on Religion and International Affairs
This article addresses the question of why religion becomes a central issue in some civil wars whereas in others—even many of those whose primary combatants identify strongly with a particular religion—it has not. This question is important because religious civil wars are costly
to the contending actors (both in the short term and the long term) and are more likely to affect regional and perhaps even international stability. I argue that religion is more likely to become central in civil wars in which threatened leaders can increase their chances of survival by invoking religion. I show that, as a proportion of all civil wars, the number of religious civil wars has been increasing. I also address the puzzle of why Islam is so much more likely to be implicated in a civil war in which religion has moved from a peripheral to a central issue than
other religions. The article begins by introducing its central theoretical puzzles, and then proceeds to test competing arguments against a statistical analysis and a case study: the long civil war in Sudan. The article concludes with theoretical and policy implications, along with an
agenda for further research.
- toft_2006_03_updated_web.pdf (542K PDF)
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