History of the JCRS

Welt+ Kinder

EURORARE is the previous project which ideas, network and research have prepared the foundation of JCRS.

EURORARE is an international social science and humanities research network, with a focus on the role of religions as agents of reconciliation.

Recent decades have seen an increased focus on the destabilizing impact of religiously based thinking and acting. Academic research and media portrayals have emphasized the violent manifestation of religions. Less attention was given to the peaceful side of religion in reconciliation processes during or in the aftermath of a conflict. This raises crucial questions: How do religions contribute to violence and/or reconciliation? Or do they have little or no impact on social conflicts?

EuroRare will explore these questions by analysing the connections between religious traditions, religiously justified actions, violence and/or reconciliation. Its scientific aim is to develop a framework for a better understanding of the role of religion in conflicts and post-conflict societies.

The considerations on reconciliation and theology, religion and science have led us to focus on the connection between "Reconciliation" and "Religion". This is a new field for further research, because the role of religions as promoters of violence has been emphasized much more strongly than their role as agents of reconciliation. This bias has promoted basic assumptions that are not convincing and even misleading, if they guide those who take political action. These assumptions are outlined below:

  • Monotheistic religions are per se more prone to violence than polytheistic ones (cf. the violence in polytheistic religions like the Flower Wars of the Aztecs, but also the tendency towards reconciliation in monotheistic religions)
  • Claims to absoluteness and superiority of certain religions do per se promote violence. (Although all world religions basically stand for such a claim, religions often grow through strictly non-violent means.)
  • The strengthening of religious identities promotes violence. (The reconciliation potential of each religion contradicts this thesis.)
  • Fundamentalism is per se a source of violence. (If one understands fundamentalism as confession to a foundation regarded to be true, the difficulty emerges with the fact that there are strictly pacifist fundamentalist groups in each religion, e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses, the Amish etc.)
  • Every influence of religion on politics promotes violence. (Although theocratic intentions almost always lead to violence, there also exist influences of religion on politics that promote reconciliation).

It is our aim to support and promote the claim that every religion has a conciliatory potential and that the role of religion in political and social conflicts depends on their transformation and reorientation (or the lack thereof) towards this potential. We want to examine the possible reorientation in Europe's prevalent religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism):

  • Is such a reorientation happening? What does it look like?
  • How is the new orientation communicated to the believers, if it is communicated at all?
  • Is there a basic assumption that underlies the different concepts of reconciliation?
  • Is there some kind of significant effect in actual conflicts that is the effect of this reorientation?

In answering these questions we aim for a threefold contribution: The first contribution will be to the current debate on a shared, general understanding concept of reconciliation. An understanding of reconciliation that is derived from or influenced by religious considerations might be able to close the gap between the two approaches described above. On the one hand it takes into account that reconciliation in and of itself is unavailable, on the other hand it is inspired by many religiously motivated activities of peacebuilding. Secondly, our research could have a direct effect on political practices in regions of conflict. In distinguishing between different concepts of reconciliation one can get an orientation for the dialogue between different cultures. Thirdly, we intend to make an essential contribution to Christian theology: Utilizing the broader horizon of Karl Barth's work can help bring clarity to his importance for other sciences as well as to political deliberation and action.