Religious Emotions and Religious Peacebuilding: The Case of Bojayá (Colombia)

Sandra Rios


This article analyses the role of religion in the transformation of social emotions after an atrocious event but when the conflict is still occurring. In this case, the creation of feeling and meaning of suffering has been influenced by religion. Religious emotions can help people cope and to manage the negative emotions that victims experience. The sociological study of religious emotions can help to enhance the analysis of religious peacebuilding. The paper focuses on the case of Bojayá (Colombia) where in 2002 a massacre occurred in a Catholic church.

The massacre was a result of the confrontation between extreme right wing paramilitaries and leftist guerrillas, with complicity of some of the members of the official army; 78 civilians died, 48 of them were children. The local grassroots Catholic Church has contributed to the social reconstruction of memory oriented towards denunciation of crimes against human rights and the reduction of violence. Local grassroots religious peacebuilding in Bojayá has helped to manage victims' emotional patterns from emotions associated with the experience of suffering such as pessimism and humiliation to emotions associated to a process of resistance, such as dignity. The information has been collected through revision of documents, fieldwork (April-May 2012 and July-August 2012), and interviews with religious peacebuilders, victims, and social leaders working in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Quibdó. 

The article argues that the concept ‘religious peacebuilding’ will be broadened by introducing aspects of religious emotions and social memory. The application of this broadened concept of religious peacebuilding can help to make it a more suitable category of analysis for societies undergoing transition from a conflict that is not religious in nature, but in which religion is a relevant component of social analysis.

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