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Everyday Practices of Toleration: The Interfaith Foundations of Peace Accords in Sierra Leone

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2020

Joel Day*
University of Southern California Center for Public Diplomacy
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Joel Day, Center for Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California. E-mail:


Under what conditions can faith leaders influence peace in civil wars? The ongoing conflict in Congo, Syria, and Yemen indicate that faith leaders can fuel sectarian divide, but also intervene on the side of peace. Drawing on experiences in Sierra Leone's civil war, this paper highlights the role of faith leaders as moral guarantors of peace processes, with respondent former rebels indicating that without interfaith delegations personally bringing the peace accord to their remote jungle camps, they would not have trusted the UN-led process. Ethnographic analysis and over 60 field interviews with former combatants and religious leaders, presents a model for answering why faith leaders were central in terminating this conflict. Combatant's personal experience with a diverse mixture of Christian, Traditional, and Islamic leaders contributed to high confidence in peace accords, due to interfaith practices deeply embedded within the culture and shows the dispositions, rituals, and interfaith practices that provided the cultural foundations for successful interfaith intervention. The paper ends with generalizations for other interfaith groups seeking to intervene in conflict.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2020

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I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the editors of Politics and Religion for their useful suggestions. I would also like to thank Andrew Blum and Amanda E. Donahoe for comments on earlier drafts.



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