Introduction: Religion and Human Security: An Understudied Relationship
James K. Wellman, Jr. & Clark B. Lombardi, eds., Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective (Oxford Univ. Press: 2012), pp. 1-17
21 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2015
Date Written: 2012
Over the last twenty years, international relations scholars and the international diplomatic community have begun to move away from their myopic focus on “state security” and they have increasingly focused on promoting “human security.” Convinced that international peace and stability cannot be achieved unless humans around the world enjoy basic welfare and rights, the international community, acting through the UN, has formally recognized that under some circumstances, sovereign states are legally required to provide “human security” for their citizens. In this environment, scholars and policy-makers have struggled both to define “human security” in a precise manner and develop effective strategies for promoting it. To date, these scholars and policy-makers have not cooperated closely enough with scholars of religion. This chapter, the introduction to a volume of case studies on religion and human security, analyzes this failure systematically to explore religion’s impact on human security and explains how it has impoverished our understanding of human security. After reviewing the current literature, the chapter identifies a vast number of ways in which religions and religious organizations can directly or indirectly affect human security for better or for worse. It then argues that in any particular society, the actual impact of religion on the human security of individuals necessarily depends on a variety of contextual factors. Depending on circumstances, religion may have a beneficial or harmful impact on human security; and in many cases it will simultaneously have both beneficial and harmful effects. The chapter concludes with a call for increased cooperation between the human security community and academics focused on religion. Because the relationship between human security and religion is so large and so contextualized, scholars and policy-makers should avoid the temptation to propose simple, “cookie cutter” techniques for dealing with religious actors in areas where human security is threatened. Working with religious scholars, they should instead familiarize themselves with the dynamics of religion and society in each of the countries where they operate and should strive to develop policies that are designed to diminish the negative effects of religion on human security while preserving its positive impacts.
Keywords: Spirituality, International law, Human Rights, Conflict, Security, Violence, Charity, Inter-state and intra-state violence, Poverty, Foreign Aid, Authoritarian States, Civil War, Transitional Justice, Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, gender discrimination
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