In an upcoming issue of CT, I'll be profiling Doug Johnston, founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. ICRD works in some of the toughest areas where identity-based conflict is most intractable–Kashmir, Sudan, and now in Syria. To get a sense of what ICRD does, I attended a weeklong Christian/Muslim reconciliation dialog in Cyprus. Christian leaders from around the U.S. and Muslims from Syria and Jordan participated.
I was struck by how difficult this work is. Building trust across cultures and between groups opposed to one another takes time, patience, and lots of effort. While the American Christians and Middle Eastern Muslims differed in many ways–and remain so, even in this setting–we could always say we loved each other as people, even if we opposed each other's governmental policies. In ICRD's work in Kashmir, however, where Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims are ever on the brink of war, such platitudes don't work. Despite the many frustrations we encountered in ...1