Research fellow presents lecture on role of prayer in peacebuilding
Megan Valley | Friday, January 27, 2017
Tanya Schwarz, a visiting research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, presented a lecture about the meanings and roles of prayer for faith-based organizations working in areas of peacebuilding Thursday afternoon in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies.
“I’m interested in how do they pray, why do they pray, when do they pray — what is prayer doing?” Schwarz said.
In the realm of international relations, Schwarz said religion has been mostly absent from the discussion.
“I think my project fills that hole and starts to dig into the ways that prayer is used by religious organizations in international relations,” she said. “ … I also address how scholars think of prayer.”
Schwarz listed three faith-based organizations that use prayer in their peacebuilding.
International Justice Mission is a global organization made up of lawyers, investigators, social workers and other professionals around the world, and works to protect the developing world’s poor from violence.
“Prayer is very prevalent in the work of International Justice Mission,” Schwarz said. “They have what they call four spiritual disciplines — the first one, for example, is the employees have 30 minutes of solitude, where they’re expected to pray and communicate with God and prepare themselves for the day.
“Later, around 11 a.m. in every office around the globe, they have what’s called corporate prayer, where everyone in that office comes together and puts forth prayer requests.”
The second faith-based organization Schwarz discussed was Religions for Peace, which she said was the “largest multi-religious organization for peace.”
Schwarz said that because Religions for Peace has members from a variety of faiths, prayer has to be treated carefully in the workplace.
“They are very careful about how they approach prayer, partly because they’re very nervous about proselytizing, and they explicitly say they are against it,” she said.
The final group Schwarz discussed was Taize, a monastic order of “over 100 Protestant and Catholic brothers” in France.
“They’re known for these really popular events they hold,” she said. “They have giant events focused on prayer for young people. They pray two or three times a day and have workshops about things like economic justice and environmental protection and intra-religious groups, although they do focus on Christian communities.”
Evaluating the variety in practices of faith-based organizations, Schwarz said we “need to think about what the ethics of prayer are.”
“We have to ask things like, is the inclusion of prayer inherently problematic?” she said.“Can employee prayer be a type of proselytizing, even if you don’t mean it to be? What are the kind of things we need to think about when we consider missionizing? We need to talk about these issues.”
When utilizing prayer as a peacebuilding mechanism, Schwarz said results can be difficult to recognize and interpret.
“In general, I think that, while it could be methodologically problematic, we need to ask if prayer can lead to more successful peacebuilding,” she said. “Or at least think about how we possibly measure something like that and in what contexts.”