Thinking about theology for peacebuilding – 8 books you’ll want to read


Hannah Swithinbank introduces a new series of blogs around the theme of peacebuilding and reconciliation, and recommends eight books to help you explore the area more deeply.

Photo: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

One of the issues Tearfund has been focusing on more and more over the past few years is peacebuilding. When we started to engage very strategically with the issue of conflict and to seek peace, one of our earliest pieces of work was to carry out research into the theology of peace and reconciliation. 

Theological reflection is a key principle of Tearfund’s work, as we believe that it is essential to our ability to truly seek the kingdom of God in the course of our work. We wanted to look at peacebuilding as a part of the mission of God and to reflect on the way that this connects with Tearfund’s own calling to respond to poverty. 

We eventually produced what we call a ‘theological framework’ for peacebuilding, for our peacebuilding team to use. As we carried out research and discussions it became very clear that there is no single, simple biblical approach to peacebuilding that can be used in all situations. At the same time, there are a number of concepts, characteristics, principles and possible approaches and journeys that Christians and churches can benefit from thinking about as they approach conflicts and peacebuilding work. And so we created a framework against which Tearfund and our partners can test our strategic plans and projects. It’s also a framework against which we can test the way we use the Bible in the process of peacebuilding work, which we will talk about more in future posts. 

Over the next few months on the Tearfund Learn blog we will be featuring some of the key ideas, principles and approaches. We’ll think about peacebuilding as a part of mission; the characteristics of peacebuilders and the development of these are a part of our growth as disciples; biblical ideas about concepts such as peace, justice, rights and diversity and inclusion; the approaches we can take to building peace; and the importance – and challenges – of reaching out across existing boundaries in pursuit of peace and reconciliation. Some posts will include a short video that features some of our team and partners talking about this work, focusing on the way that these ideas are shaping our work on the ground. 

Watch our experts talk about why it’s important to have a theological framework for peacebuilding. 

We are also going to be releasing some resources that churches and Christians can use, shaped by our theology framework and our practical experiences. In the meantime, we recommend the following books if you are interested in going deeper into what theologians think about peacebuilding and reconciliation: 

  • The Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace, by John Paul Lederach (Oxford University Press, 2010)  
  • Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer, by Fr. Michael Lapsley (Struik Christian Media, 2012)  
  • Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen (Zondervan, 1998)  
  • Exclusion & Embrace, by Miroslav Volf (Oxford: Abingdon Press, 1996) 
  • No Future Without Forgiveness, by Desmond Tutu (Random House, 2000) 
  • Justice, by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Princeton University Press, 2010) 
  • At Peace and Unafraid, edited by Gerald Schlabach and Duane K. Friesen (Herald Press (VA), 2005) 
  • The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, edited by Sam Wells and Stanley Hauerwas (Blackwell, 2011)  

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Hannah Swithinbank
Hannah Swithinbank is Tearfund’s Theology & Network Engagement Manager.