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Marc Gopin is director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and James H. Laue Professor at George Mason University. He is an expert on the role that religion and culture play in conflicts and conflict resolution. In 2008 he received the Andrew Thomas Peacebuilder Award from the New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NYSDRA). He is currently the James H. Laue Professor of Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
Gopin's particular emphasis is on the role of religion and culture in not only sparking conflict, but as critical to reaching lasting resolution between peoples and nations. Widely recognized for his lectures and trainings on peacemaking strategies, Gopin has worked in Ireland, Israel, India, Switzerland, and Italy, and has presented at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton Universities. He has also engaged in back channel diplomacy with religious, political, and military figures on both sides of entrenched conflicts, especially in the Arab/Israeli conflict.
In 1983, Gopin was ordained as a rabbi at Yeshiva University, where he was a student of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Though ordained as an Orthodox rabbi, he eventually stopped identifying with any Jewish denomination.
Gopin's research has focused on the selection and use of religious texts, symbols and rituals as these are interpreted by religious people to understand forces or events that are largely secular, such as globalization, resource distribution or political access. Religious language provides a critical access point for many traditional people in interpreting social conflicts. Religious practices of prayer, ritual, hospitality, forgiveness and reconciliation, are crucial in shaping a community's social response to conflict situations. These practices can be utilized by those engaged in peace processes to widen the appeal of secular forms of creating political order. Gopin's characterization of values dilemmas as they apply to international issues has also provided an important framework for understanding conflicts related to development, clash of cultures and social justice.
The integration of religion into public peace processes was popularized in Western diplomatic circles by Douglas Johnston in Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (Oxford University Press, 1994). Gopin by contrast warns against the dangers that fundamentalist religions present to freedom and diversity. At the same time he insists that the most appealing aspects of contemporary religious experience be understood by peacemakers, diplomats, and civil servants, in order to create more inclusive peace processes and social arrangements. He aims to establish religious parties' stake in any negotiated agreement in order to undermine the appeal of religious militancy in the establishment of political and social orders. Other important scholars and practitioners in the field of religious peacemaking include Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Scott Appleby, John Paul Lederach, Joseph Montville, Marc Ross, and Vamik Volkan.
Gopin has found that the most religious segment of a community is often the one that most deeply internalizes the community's collective identity, history and memory. Studying their prayers, rituals and study, Gopin has found that these communities can be bellwethers for framing community responses to conflict.
In developing language and techniques for religious diplomats, Gopin looks to sacred texts as they are understood within a group's accepted cultural traditions and experience. He researches the use of spiritual guidance within religion traditions' larger justice and peace framework, including generosity, empathy, compassion, compromise, symbolic acts, and metaphorical understandings. To better support religious leaders and lay people who promote constructive relationships between competing groups, Gopin calls on improvements to contemporary forums, institutions and funding mechanisms.
Gopin has authored three books on religious peacemaking. Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking (Oxford University Press, 2000) describes the role the religion can play in constructing a global community of shared moral commitments to constructive conflict resolution. In Holy War, Holy Peace (Oxford University Press, 2002), Gopin provides analysis of what has gone wrong in Arab-Israeli peace processes till now, and how diplomats and peacemakers can more effectively move all parties toward peace and justice in the future. Gopin addresses personal conflicts in his latest book, Healing the Heart of Conflict (Rodale Press, 2004), with an eight-step plan to address the deeply emotional stages that are necessary to resolve the most painful human conflicts.
Gopin wrote a series of opeds in 2007-2008 on Common Ground News Service, available at www.commongroundnews.org. These include: "New Treaty for Iran and Israel," "Winds of Change in Syria," "Counter Religious Extremism with religious Compassion," "A New Coalition for Justice and Peace I Israel," "A Mufti, a Christian, and a Rabbi," "Jewish Arabs and a New Middle East," "What Exactly is Pro-Israel?" "Regional Peace with Palestine at the Core," "Testing Hamas and a Saudi Option," "Lebanon for the Golan," "Leo the Healer: an untold story of Jewish/Palestinian medical partnership," "Israelis are Talking to Hamas: religion at the cutting edge."
Gopin has appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, CNN International, Court TV, The Jim Lehrer News Hour, Israel Radio, National Public Radio, The Connection, Voice of America, and the national public radios of Sweden, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. His writing has been published in the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and his work has been featured in news stories of The Times, the Times of India, Associated Press, and Newhouse News Service, regarding issues of conflict resolution, religion and violence. He has lectured widely on conflict resolution and has trained thousands of people worldwide in peacemaking strategies for complex conflicts in which religion and culture play a role.
Gopin has engaged in back-channel diplomacy with religious, political and military figures in many conflicts, and is particularly focused on Arab and Israeli issues. He has met with many Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religious leaders in Israel, the Occupied Territories and neighborhood states. In recent years he has conducted extensive interfaith work and back channel diplomacy in Syria.
Gopin's recent work in the field points toward a need for a more aggressive global commitment to social contracts and constructs of society that welcome the inclusion of religious people as equal members of society. At the same time, he argues, we must established very firm boundaries that prevent religion from becoming corrupted by its use of force or power. Religious force is especially dangerous when it comes to the lives of citizens who have been abused by traditional religions, such as women, homosexuals, progressive interpreters of religions, syncretists or those who combine traditions, or those who have no religious affiliation. Religion globally today is turning out to offer a rich contribution to many areas of inquiry, especially in ethics, philosophy, literature, healing and psychotherapy, and many quests by human beings for a deeper meaning to existence. But religion's constructive nonviolent value seems to endure only when it has no power over the public or military sphere. It is especially important that clerics be included as teachers only with no political or martial authority.
Gopin is now working in partnership with the Fetzer Foundation to create a web-based video series and book on enemies who become friends and close partners. Filming began in the summer of 2008. He is also the author of To Make the Earth Whole: Creating Global Community in an Age of Religious Militancy (forthcoming, Rowman Littlefield). Gopin is creator and principal author of [www.marcgopin.com], a weblog dedicated to addressing the transformation of conflicts facing humanity.
To Make the Earth Whole introduces a critique of the field of conflict resolution, with a recommended emphasis now on practice based on social network theory and the art of citizen diplomacy. Gopin recounts his five years of work inside Syria, and in between Damascus, Washington and Jerusalem. He also engages in in-depth analysis of the ethics of intervention in conflict, from the perspective of Western philosophical ethics, as well as Eastern Wisdom traditions.
Published Works and Reviews
- Bridges across an Impossible Divide: The Inner Lives of Arab and Jewish Peacemakers. Oxford University Press. 2012. ISBN 9780199916986.
- To Make the Earth Whole: Citizen Diplomacy in the Age of Religious Militancy. Rowman and Littlefield. 2009. ISBN 9780742558632.
- Changing Course: A New Direction for US Relations with the Muslim World, co-author and member of Leadership Group (US Muslim Engagement Project, Washington DC, Cambridge, MA, September 2008)
- Healing the Heart of Conflict. Rodale Press. 2004. ISBN 9781579547936.
- "Judaism and Peacebuilding in Religion and Peacebuilding, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004
- Holy War, Holy Peace. Oxford University Press. 2002. ISBN 9780195146509.
- Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking. Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 9780195157253.
- "New Treaty for Iran and Israel," Middle East Times, June 26, 2008.
- "How to challenge Iran's militancy without using arms,' with Rep. Gregory Meeks, Christian Science Monitor, August 22, 2007
- International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, member of the Academic Advisory Committee, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Chairman of the Advisory Board on Religion and Conflict Resolution
- American Friends of the Parents Circle, Board Member. Organization of Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace
- A Different Future, Board member. Organization dedicated to the use of media to promote shared values of the monotheistic traditions for peace in the Middle East
- American Friends of the Open House at Ramle, Board member. Organization dedicated to Arab/Israeli coexistence and coeducation
- Lauren Gelfond Feldinger (January 21, 2010). "The Lonely Man of Peace". The Jerusalem Post.
- Marc Gopin's Blog
- Marc Gopin bio
- School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
- Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution