The door that doesn't close: the methods and effectiveness of clergy peacebuilders in Northern Ireland
Grenfell-Muir, Trelawney Jean
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This dissertation examines the methods, influence, and effectiveness of clergy peacebuilders in Northern Ireland during the violent conflict known as "The Troubles," through the signing of the peace agreement and the first decade post-agreement. Twenty-one clergy, all committed to ameliorating the conflict, were interviewed once for approximately ninety minutes regarding their theological motivations, activism efforts, constraints, and perceived effectiveness. Interviewees include eight Methodist, eight Church of Ireland, three Roman Catholic, one Presbyterian, one ecumenical order, and one evangelical parachurch clergy. Analysis of the interviews revealed strong theological similarities of inclusivity and dedication to living one's beliefs despite denominational differences; however, clergy expressed a range of views on Manichaeism and pacifism/Just War theory. They also experienced a range of direct and indirect violence. These factors increased their perceived risk of activism and shaped their ministerial approach and effectiveness. The context of conflict, which predisposes parishioners to prefer certain leadership styles, and clergy access to expert, referent, and legitimate power also affected clergy influence and activism. The study argues that, as a whole, activist clergy possess a particularly favorable platform for successful outgroup exposure due to high group salience and boundary de-emphasis. Typical clergy peacebuilding activities influence individuals, structures, and communities. Also, clergy influence through indirect outgroup contact, ripple effects, and synergism, decreases hostility and increases the possibilities of achieving peace. Clergy use of "soft power" lets them operate in a democratic deficit, helps build trust, improves the quality of negotiations and agreements, ameliorates identity conflict, and enhances stability. This study, the first conducted among a range of activist clergy in Northern Ireland, concludes that in order to optimize peace efforts, secular interest groups should cooperate with clergy peacebuilders. Moreover, denominations and seminaries should consciously augment clergy expert, referent, and legitimate power and reduce clergy fears of perceived professional risk resulting from activism. The thesis adds to Peace/Conflict studies by providing in-depth insight into the various capabilities, constraints, and the significance of civil society/religious peacebuilders.