Religion and Museums for Peace

The 10th International Conference of Museums for Peace

Title: Religion and Museums for Peace

Author: Clive Barrett, Chair of Trustees, The Peace Museum, Bradford, UK

Abstract: This presentation draws on my chapter, “Museums for Peace”, in Mitchell, J. et al (eds.), Wiley Blackwell Companion to Religion and Peace, UK, 2020. It is based on an international survey I conducted of museums for peace in 2018. I cite the experience of museums for peace across four continents.

Few museums for peace focus on religious issues, even museums founded or managed by religious groups or individuals. Most museums, however, inevitably reflect aspects of the dominant culture of their society, which may be influenced by religion.

Religion at its best can motivate peace-makers. At its worst, religion can promote narrow thinking, violent conflict, and war.

I explore in depth three case studies:

1) Kenya: the role of religion and ritual in community peace museums;

2) Nagasaki, Japan: State Shinto opposition to a renovation covering Japanese aggression during the Fifteen Year War;

3) Bradford, UK: peace-making in the context of a diverse, multi-faith city.

Both religions at their best and museums for peace can value: the holding of community memory, the significance of story-telling, the search for truth, the goal of peace, drawing out the best of human behaviour and attitudes, and actively working for community well-being.