The mission of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution (CRDC) is to engage emerging indigenous and global conflict resolvers, partner with them in innovative entrepreneurial growth, mobilize support for them, and create linkages between peacebuilders, citizen diplomats, students, business people and policy makers.
CRDC specializes in innovative international practice of conflict resolution and citizen diplomacy, international education seminars and field experience, conflict resolution analysis of current events, and business/organizational consultancies.
The goal of CRDC is to inspire and generate successful incremental steps of positive change in intractable conflict situations that can become the basis for new approaches to diplomacy and foreign policy. Paths to positive change include: civil society development through education in conflict resolution, peer mediation, innovative religious, spiritual, and cultural forms of conflict resolution, culturally effective methods of cooperation on development projects of benefit to all parties, and an integrated relationship between the world of such work and the world of policy makers and diplomats. An essential element of this is effective relationship-building across multiple sectors of enemy systems and global governance systems, with the help of extraordinary ‘connectors’. But it also entails linking these networks to the complex layers of decision makers in the more privileged sectors of global society. An essential emerging component of this work, therefore, is social network research and the practice of social network peacebuilding through social media, films, and cutting edge venues of global communications. The work of CRDC ranges from grassroots work to policymaking, and seeks to develop and support more effective collaboration between grassroots leaders and policymakers with regard to education, social change, and nonviolent resistance to unjust structures.
The major activities of CRDC’s staff include development of educational material, social media, and books. Secondly, CRDC engages in seminars, trainings, and public gatherings both abroad and at the University. Thirdly, CRDC engages the social network of positive change makers in the conflict regions and collaborate with them in a way that raises the profile of significant and cutting edge peacebuilding work in high conflict zones. Finally, it acts as a connector of the social network of positive change makers and the policy makers of the Washington region in order to generate more effective international support for and encouragement of cutting edge peacebuilding.
CRDC began in 2003, through a major gift commitment from the Catalyst Fund, which endowed the James H. Laue Chair in World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution, and created CRDC to be directed by the Chair. The Chair is named for James H. Laue, the inaugural Vernon M. and Minnie I. Lynch Professor of Conflict Resolution at George Mason from 1987 until his death in 1993.
Dr. Marc Gopin, scholar and practitioner in religious peacebuilding, author of MarcGopin.com and several foundational books of the field of religion and conflict resolution, was appointed as Chair and Director. Dr. Gopin brings years of experience and scholarship in the positive and negative roles that religion can play in conflict. His vision for the center includes education in positive resources for conflict resolution in the world’s religions, empowerment of religious leaders in the resolution of conflicts, and a transformation in the way policymakers approach religious conflicts.
CRDC and the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University
CRDC provides unique opportunities for S-CAR students, alumni, and faculty to interact with CRDC’s specialized network of peacebuilders. CRDC is fortunate to benefit from the proximity of over 400 students of conflict analysis and resolution at S-CAR, the oldest and largest program of conflict resolution in the world, servicing students of the B.S., M.S. and Ph.D., as well as 22 faculty and dozens of adjunct faculty and researchers. Students with indigenous knowledge of conflicts in every region engage in internships for practice as well as research of cutting edge practices in the field.
CRDC has also functioned as a unique cultural space in which S-CAR community members and others have been welcomed in as social entrepreneurs engaged in new and creative self-supporting ventures that attune well with CRDC’s mission.
CRDC is an incubator for new relationships with training, civil society or educational institutions in parts of the world that may be volatile or situations that may be fluid and too early for engagement with S-CAR’s high levels of scholarship and research. CRDC has already pioneered such relationships that could prove useful for more developed relationships with S-CAR in the future.
Some notable activities that have emerged from our mission:
- A five-year experiment in citizen diplomacy in Syria that included dozens of television and radio appearances, as well as public conferences, debates, and seminars in Syria, Israel and the United States
- The establishment of a CRDC branch in Damascus, Syria, prior to the revolution
- Training in religion and conflict resolution as a channel of indirect communication between enemies (USIP-CRDC)
- Film series, in cooperation with the Fetzer Institute, Friendships Across the Divide, which highlights the work of Middle East peaceabuilders
- A Weblog covering the works and thoughts of Dr. Marc Gopin – MarcGopin.com
- Conferences in Washington, in collaboration with Alliance for Middle East Peace, leading to the evolution of introduced legislation in 2009 to create a Palestine/Israel Fund to revolutionize support for people to people peacebuilding (HR 1065)
- Hosting of Middle Eastern diplomats, scholars and peacemakers, such as from Jerusalem Peacemakers