Winchester researchers support Nepalese peace process with inter-faith workshops

Researchers from the University of Winchester have been on a mission to Nepal, helping religious leaders, campaigners and policy makers find common ground to reinforce the peace process.

Dr Mark Owen and Dr Anna King from the University’s Centre of Religions for Reconciliation and Peace (WCRRP) have been working and collecting data in Nepal for the past three years and earlier this year ran inter-faith workshops within the country. Their aim is to promote mutual understanding among the country’s numerous ethnic and religious groups as they move towards a democratic future.

Between 1996 and 2006, Nepal endured a decade of civil war in which more than 16,000 people were killed, and an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people lost their homes. Nepal’s elected constituent assembly was dissolved in 2013, leaving the country without a constitution or stable government.

“It is a slow process, but building a functioning democracy cannot be achieved overnight,” explains Dr Owen, Director of WCRRP. “The people of Nepal have to face and overcome some very challenging issues.

“Our work supports and encourages inter-religious, multi-faith groups to think about what resources they can mobilise to positively support and enhance the peace process.”

Between them, Dr Owen and Dr King spent four weeks in Nepal this year aiming to empower and energise people to move forward and address the underlying causes of religious tension. Their work also fed into a national event in the capital, Kathmandu. The result of this summit was the ‘Kathmandu Declaration’ – an action plan identifying specific areas for religious peacebuilding.

“The declaration and supporting report to the Nepalese Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction forms the basis on our work over the next few years and will conceivably contribute to a more sustainable and effective peace process in Nepal,” said Dr Owen. “This type of work really epitomises the core values of the University: excellent scholarship, which also makes a positive and tangible difference to people’s lives. We are very much looking forward to continuing our work with our Nepalese colleagues in the future.”

Dr Owen and Dr King plan to return to Nepal in April 2014.