Muslim Peace-Building Actors in Africa and the Balkan Context: Challenges and Needs



Religion and conflict resolution in general, and Islam in particular, have become a main area of research since the September 11 attacks. This article argues that, to develop effective conflict resolution models and practices for sustainable peace in the Muslim world, it is not only necessary to understand how religious and cultural traditions can contribute to peace, but also to work together with and incorporate local peace-building actors, as their legitimacy and knowledge can contribute to the effectiveness of peace-building initiatives. Although there is a growing literature exploring Islamic principles of peace and conflict resolution, research analyzing how these principles are put to use by Muslim actors to resolve their conflicts is lagging behind. This gives the impression that there are no actors working toward peace in these communities. The authors argue to the contrary, which is based on an analysis of data collected from the Balkans and the Great Lakes region and includes a combination of interviews and surveys submitted by more than fifty Muslim peace actors that describe their efforts and perception of Islamic peace. This essay analyzes the unique characteristics of Muslim peace-building actors, who are doing critical work under extremely difficult conditions, and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses to inform the development of effective conflict resolution and peace-building models in these regions.