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This book draws upon theory and theology to consider how religious institutions engage with post-conflict statebuilding and why they would choose to lend their resources to the endeavour. Drawing from the theologies of Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam, Dragovic explores their possible motivations to engage alongside the international community.




Shortly after arriving in Iraq in May 2003, Paul Bremer, Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, began preparations for the drafting of an Iraqi constitution. The initial plan was for Iraqi and US leaders to select the writers of the constitution, for a constitution to be drafted and sovereignty handed over. But in June of 2003 a cleric residing far from the centres of authority in Baghdad and Washington gave a religious opinion on the matter. The fatwa stated that any drafting would have to be undertaken by Iraqi representatives efollowing a general election.1 Initially this view was ‘underestimated by the Bush administration’, then it became apparent that the ‘Americans were in denial’, said one Iraqi member of the Governing Council.2 For months Bremer refused to recognize the influence of the religious leader. Ayatollah Sistani, on post-conflict statebuilding efforts. Instead, the Americans thought they could work around the fatwa, recruit other religious figures to counter Sistani, appeal to reason and explain the difficulties of organizing an election in such a short period of time, and eventually even offer a comprise by suggesting partial elections. This was not enough. ‘It was very difficult, if not impossible, to disregard the fatwa of Ayatollah Sistani,’ explained Yass Khudier, an Iraqi member of the commission tasked by the Governing Council to find a solution.3
Denis Dragovic

1. Religion and Post-Conflict Statebuilding

In considering the role of religious institutions in post-conflict statebuilding it is not unreasonable to ask whether this line of enquiry remains relevant. The prescriptive nature of Western foreign policy towards developing countries and its recurring liberal agenda suggests that it isn’t. Built upon the foundations of modernization theory from the 1950s and 1960s international development and statebuilding policies are largely efforts aimed at replicating Western modes of progress in which there was no formal role for religion. Lant Pritchett et al. refer to this phenomenon in the development context as ‘isomorphic mimicry’, in that aid agencies replicate Western institutions without allowing unique indigenous systems to develop organically.1 Religion, as understood through modernization theory or isomorphic mimicry, is seen as unnecessary or even an inhibitor to progress.
Denis Dragovic

2. Roman Catholic View of the State

Earlier I outlined the mechanisms that religious institutions have at hand to support the three primary order elements of post-conflict statebuilding—legitimacy, public security and basic services. These contributions are important as they target what political scientists and international relations scholars have identified as being the two most common mechanisms by which states fail—legitimacy deficit and institutional failure. Scholars that have more broadly considered the relationship between religion and legitimacy have largely done so within the confines of political science. Social science, meanwhile, offers theories that can be used to consider how religious institutions mobilize resources to respond to public security and deliver basic services. Both disciplines lead to an approach that instrumentalizes religion—making it a tool, or a means to a statebuilding end. In this section I reflect on how our understanding of post-conflict statebuilding would change if the means and ends were reversed, in other words, that statebuilding becomes a means to a religious end. So rather than seeing statebuilding as, for example, Khadiagala does, namely for the purpose of ‘returning the state to the centre of political life’,1 I will consider religion as being the aspirational centre of people’s lives and statebuilding as the means to achieving a religious end.
Denis Dragovic

3. Salvation as the Catholic Post-Conflict Statebuilding Imperative

What differentiates Christian political theology from secular politics and its limiting theoretical models mentioned earlier is that to be a Christian is to acknowledge an alternative authority, namely that of Christ’s sovereignty and with this the possibility of eternal life. Christ’s atoning for man’s sins through His sacrifice re-established the covenant with God and opened the way to salvation and eternal life. Such a conceptualization places the end goal outside of the framework of traditional political and social science models making them inadequate to fully integrate the impetus for religious institutions in post-conflict statebuilding.
Denis Dragovic

4. Sunni Islam and the State

Understanding the role of the state in Islamic theology requires beginning with an understanding of the basis upon which Allah chooses who will be taken to paradise and who will be sent to hell—a much disputed topic in early Islamic theological circles. The debate revolved, in part, around the power of man’s reason. Of the early schools of theology the Mu‘tazili argued that through rational thinking man could make the right choices in life and Allah was then obliged to take with Him those who had chosen well as He Himself is rational. The Ash‘ari disputed this and argued that man can only know right and wrong by way of revelation and even if we were to abide by the laws revealed to man Allah has no obligation to save those who lived accordingly. A third school, Maturidi, took the middle ground and argued that revelation guides man and reason helps to bring clarity to its meaning. In addition, they disagreed with there being any obligation upon Allah to accept those who lived righteously, but they believed in His wisdom and that there would be some rhyme and reason to the choices that He made. While Maturidi thought has largely stayed true to its foundations the Ash‘cari school softened its stance on some issues becoming, by the fourteenth century, less distinguishable on this matter from the Maturidi view.1
Denis Dragovic

5. Justice as the Sunni Post-Conflict Statebuilding Imperative

Earlier I argued how salvation could be seen as the primary theological driver for the Catholic Church to involve itself in supporting post-conflict statebuilding. Within Islam I have not found any suggestion in the Qur’an that would indicate that Allah wants all, or even most, people to enter Paradise. Nor have I found others who have put forward a credible case that argues any numerical preference. Quite the contrary, in some passages it becomes evident that Allah foresees a majority not entering Paradise (see for example 17:62–63; 32:13). It seems that there is a widely held presumption that Allah desires all of humanity to enter Paradise, but this view is not based on any scriptural foundation in the Qur’an or hadith. In fact, how many will be chosen is left indeterminate.
Denis Dragovic

6. Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has been, to varying degrees, under the tutelage of international state builders since the General Framework Agreement for Peace (Dayton Peace Agreement) was signed on 14 December 1995 following nearly four years of war. Since then the international community has been involved in the establishment and maintenance of the state apparatus through various mechanisms including bilateral aid, development projects, mandated responsibilities, and, unusually considering the period of time, direct authority as is vested in the Office of the High Representative, other individuals and international organizations. This direct and continuous involvement by international state builders included engaging with religious institutions. But without much said or written on this topic and no scholarship to draw upon outreach to religious institutions was understandably ad hoc, embraced by some, eschewed by others. It is not surprising then that these efforts were described to me by religious leaders as insincere and thought to be largely public relations efforts. This book begins to respond to the ad hoc nature of the engagement by applying the framework I developed in Chapter 1 to build a better understanding of the potential role of religious institutions. In this section I draw upon this framework to consider how the particular structures and practices of two religious institutions in BiH, the Roman Catholic Church and the Islamic Community, could conceivably engage with the post-conflict statebuilding endeavour. In addition I reflect upon their theologies to suggest nuanced variations to the views on post-conflict statebuilding developed earlier and how these differences could impact their motivation in supporting the post-conflict statebuilding effort.1
Denis Dragovic


The recurring failure of the international community to guide states, from collapse to stability, recognized as a one-in-two chance over a period of five years, calls for further research, especially in areas that have been neglected or ignored to date.1 Through this book I have attempted to respond by looking at one non-state actor, religious institutions, and how its efforts if focused upon the same objectives can lighten the burden upon the state apparatus giving it room to recover and rebuild.
Denis Dragovic


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