THEME: Mediation and International Politics


The article was authored by Ananaya Agrawal, E. Sarashika, and Rohit Raj from National Law University, Delhi. 


Set against the backdrop of a receding preference for litigation in resolving disputes, this essay sets out to explore mediation as an effective form of alternate dispute resolution, specifically in the sphere of religious conflict. Mediation is a process facilitated by a neutral third party that entails the voluntary participation of conflicting parties in resolving their disputes in a creative and cooperative manner. Though mediation has gained traction in contemporary times, it continues to be largely overlooked in conflicts with religious dimensions. Exploration of mediation as a potential mode of dispute resolution in the context of religious conflicts forms the central theme of this essay.

While mediating religious disputes inevitably involves skating on thin ice given the inherent intractability of such conflicts, this mode of dispute resolution may prove far more successful than litigation in initiating constructive discussions and facilitating mutually acceptable solutions for stakeholders. Through a critical analysis of the impediments involved in the process of litigation, the essay ventures to juxtapose the same against the wide-ranging benefits of mediation.

In laying the foundation for the critique of this theme, the essay firstly engages in an analysis differentiating a religious dispute from a non-religious one. Secondly, it goes on to discuss the demerits of litigating religious disputes through inferences from various case studies. In this context, the authors have endeavored to comprehensively explore the prospects of mediating religious disputes and argue mediation to be a comparatively better mode of dispute resolution. Notwithstanding the same, this critique also seeks to identify and caution readers of the hindrances that may arise in the course of mediating religious disputes. In conclusion, the authors propose various suggestions aimed at overcoming these obstacles and deduce mediation to be an ideal mode of resolving religious conflicts through fostered trust and cooperation between the parties.

Decoding Formal and Informal Modes of Dispute Resolution

Human society has borne witness to variegated forms of dispute resolution processes over the years.[1] Today the formal processes exist as litigation proceedings in courts which may be adversarial or inquisitorial depending on the country’s legal system. Formal systems typically decide in favor of one party over the other, thereby placing the two sides on antagonistic ends of the spectrum.[2] The more informal methods, known as Alternate Dispute Resolution or ADR, provide a relatively wider scope in terms of autonomy granted to the parties in dispute and the emphasis laid on protection of the parties’ relationship.[3]

Mediation, as a form of ADR, possesses several benefits in helping individuals arrive at a mutually beneficial settlement as compared to adversarial resolution. It proffers a system wherein parties are not subject to the rigors of court procedure and standard of proof.[4] It comprises the two disputing parties and a neutral third person who aims to initiate discussion between both for persuading them into reaching a consensual agreement.[5] In choosing mediation, the parties commit towards resolving disputes through cooperation and discussion, in their desire to preserve the relationship.[6] Through a highly participant-centric process, it enables the parties to both express their perspectives while retaining their autonomy of decision-making, thus allowing them to better understand and address underlying interests.

Differentiating Religious & Non-Religious Disputes

When we speak of mediation in religious disputes, we must understand the context in which a religious dispute arises and how it is characteristically different from other kinds of disputes observed and encountered. While differences primarily emerge on factual grounds in ordinary disputes, they extend to values and core beliefs of the parties as well in disputes with religious dimensions.[7] Given the intrinsic part played by religion in individuals’ lives[8], decisions in such conflicts have greater ramifications as compared to usual disputes. Perceptions of the parties become harder to reconcile as well, since faith often renders certain principles non-negotiable due to their foundational role in the religion’s belief system.[9]

Elements of mutual distrust, low tolerance level, and high sensitivity quotient emerge at the forefront of religious disputes. Religion-fueled unrest in Israel in 2017 is a quintessential example of the same. Following the collapse of a pathway to Temple Mount, a sacred site in Jerusalem, security cameras were installed to quell Muslim fears regarding reconstruction of the pathway by the Israeli government. However, the agreement in pursuance of which the cameras were installed was broken by the government before completion of the project, leading to tensions across Israel and Palestine.[10] This incident thus reflects the instinctive aspects of distrust and low tolerance against any external entity perceived to interfere in one’s own religion.

Heightened sensitivity is also explicit in the vociferous statements made subsequently by the Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian leader Arafat in reiterating their stance of righteous ownership over the Temple Mount site. These entrenched stances led to a stalemate at the Camp David Summit of 2000, convened by the American president in an attempt to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In later explaining Israel’s position to President George W. Bush, Barak said,

“The Temple Mount is the cradle of Jewish history and there is no way I will sign a document that transfers sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians. For Israel, it would be a betrayal of the Holy of Holies.” [11]

Conversely, Arafat’s parting words to President Clinton at the end of the negotiations were:

“To tell me that I have to admit that there is a temple below the mosque? I will never do that”  [12]

The profound faith of both groups in the indivisibility of the sacred site led to their perception of interference in any form as a direct threat to their religion, thereby resulting in vehement defence of their positions.[13]

In the national context, augmented sensitivity in religious disputes has left the very judicial system’s principles in doubt. The litigation of disputes revolving around conversions and proselytisation in the Indian state has sparked heated debates regarding the bias upheld by the apex court on numerous occasions. The judgement rendered in  Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh[14] marked the beginning of this perceived discrimination, wherein the court ruled against Christian missionaries and held there to exist “no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion” as it impinges on one’s freedom of conscience. Court judgements, in stripping Islam and Christian converts of their welfare benefits on the one hand while recognizing the rights of Hindu reconverts to claim back their caste-based privileges[15] on the other, only serve to emphasise this problematic paradox arising from judicial action. Minorities are of the view that these reflect undertones of tacit support for the dominant religion of Hinduism, thus revealing a disturbing trend of majoritarianism prevailing over social justice.

Therefore, these multifarious observations highlight the significant differences between disputes with religious dimensions and non-religious conflicts which primarily arise due to core religious beliefs and the associated sense of identity that render such impart volatility to such contestations. Understanding this distinctive nature of religious conflict is crucial in determining the ideal mode of dispute resolution.

Litigation in a Religious Dispute: The Best Way Out?

The principal fallout of using litigation as a mode of dispute resolution is that it divides the two parties by hearing both sides separately on the issue.. The value of inclusivity seems lacking, given that the concept of audi alteram partem is largely reductionist in nature and restrains itself to the claims of parties being necessarily pitched as adversarial interests.[16]

Conventional litigation includes argumentation, competitive advocacy and rule-based decision making. However, the absence of open discourse in this formalistic system often results in non-voluntary compliance and lesser participant-satisfaction.[17] Such practice also often tends to destroy the relationship between the parties.[18] In complex problems, an outcome in litigation is challenged for reversal of verdict , thus further escalating conflict and lengthening the process.

As this essay highlights through a detailed analysis, religious disputes that have been litigated in the courts have witnessed several problems with regards to the non-implementation of the judgement, the protracted nature of litigation process, inherent antitheticality of the process and the ensuing public and political pressure on the court adjudging the case.


Judgements on religious disputes, more often than not, witness mass resentment from the “losing” party resulting in attempts to thwart the implementation of the verdict. A key example is the controversy on constructing the Thirty Meter Telescope on the sacred Mauna Kea in Hawaii for advanced star exploration. The construction has been fervently opposed by the native inhabitants who regard the site as ancestral sacred land housing a temple. While the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered stoppage of the construction, the same was allowed to resume in a subsequent judgment in 2018.[19] Protestor attempts to block the site has however prevented implementation of the judgement in real life.[20]

In the Indian scenario, the Sabarimala dispute presents a classic case of these lacunae arising in litigating a religious dispute. The issue developed due to the conflict arising from the testing of the right to religious autonomy on the touchstone of constitutional morality.[21] The apex court, in upholding constitutional rights, lifted the bar on entrance of women falling within the menstruating age group to Lord Ayyappan’s shrine.[22] The verdict gave rise to a huge backlash with religious authorities continuing to prevent women from entering the temple[23], thus highlighting the manifest impracticality of the judgement in terms of implementation. At present, the 5-judge constitutional bench judgement stands for review, thus further elongating the period of the dispute and intensifying tensions.

This patent inclination of parties towards rejection and non-implementation of verdicts emerging out of litigation highlights one of the key drawbacks of this mode of dispute resolution.

Protracted Nature

Litigation broadly witnesses resource-rich parties choosing to challenge the initial verdict and approach appellate forums of every stage before accepting the dictum of the apex forum. In the context of religious disputes as well, given the underlying communal emotions of the parties and their supporters, the groups continue to engage in lengthening of the litigation process thus furthering hostility among members. A number of litigated cases across the world attest to the same.

The foremost among these instances concerns the tribal opposition to planned commercial harvesting of wastewater in the San Francisco peaks of Arizona. As these peaks are considered sacred by several native tribes, the project was viewed as a threat to the site and their religious practices.[24] The legal manifestation of this opposition has taken the form of numerous lawsuits and petitions by the Hopi tribe.[25] These continued efforts of the opposing group have resulted in prolonged litigation in this dispute with no resolution in sight.

In India, the Ram Mandir dispute in Ayodhya is another case in point for religious disputes intensifying communal disharmony and mistrust. The crux of the case lies in a dispute over ownership of a plot of land in Ayodhya between Hindu and Muslim litigants.[26]Post the construction of Babri Mosque in 1529, there have been a series of suits filed for worship of a Ram idol found in the mosque premises and subsequently, regarding the possession of the land as the site was believed to have housed a Hindu temple.[27] The dispute has been in litigation throughout the time period from 1885 till the apex court judgement in 2019.[28] The extended timeline has been characterised by numerous petitions and intermittent phases of violence with both parties being deprived of usage of the Court-sealed land during proceedings.[29] From the barbaric demolition of the Masjid[30] to the dramatic litigation proceedings characterised by rampant disrespect displayed by the parties in Court, this conflict has highlighted the manifest hostility ingrained between the parties.[31]

The protracted nature of litigation proceedings in religious disputes thus only serves to prolong and deepen the conflict while giving rise to an impasse between the parties.

Inherent Antitheticality

Litigation involves parties to engage in an ‘antithetical’ process that requires one to oppose the other, thus furthering the conflictual nature of disagreement. This characteristic of litigation, when reflected in religious disputes, sets up the groups and their supporters on antagonistic sides even though they might not agree with the claims in toto.

Such was the case in the controversy regarding the Anti-Conversion bill moved in Sri Lanka’s Parliament. From the late 1990s until 2004, the island state witnessed a strong debate around the influx of foreign organizations which were setting up churches and engaging in evangelism to convert existing religious groups. When a bill targeting the “forced” conversion was introduced in parliament , it was challenged by Christian groups in court.[32] Recourse  to litigation at first instance forced the stakeholders to choose between either side without exploring innovative solutions. This thus brought about polarization of religious interests which attests to this inherent ‘antitheticality’ of litigation.[33]

Media, Public & Political Pressure

Litigation in a religious dispute often witnesses lengthy debates on the public platform. Varying forces of pressure is experienced by a court of law taking up such disputes. As opposed to the other means of alternate dispute resolution, these religious disputes become highly contentious and sections of the society associate with and support different parties. The effect of this pressure is, at times, evident in the judicial process. A case that could have been dealt in a better manner by other modes of dispute resolution like mediation eventually succumbs to such pressures.

In Malaysia, a woman named, Lina Joy wanted to convert from Islam to Christianity. A dispute arose with the Religious Council of the Federal Territories due to the challenge between the interpretation of an individual’s right to religious freedom and a religious community’s right to manage its own affairs without external interference.[34] On entering litigation, the case harbingered media attention and was subject to the “court of public opinion” with multiple coalitions being formed favouring either groups. Arguments on interference with Shariah law throughout the nation-state rendered the situation a sensitive and complex one for the courts to adjudge. While the legal status of individuals could be changed earlier through solutions negotiated through attorneys,[35] the court system produced legal controversies which only added fuel to the fire.

A similar inference may be drawn in the situation of the minority Ahmadi community of Pakistan. The religious group’s interpretation of Islam is one that is rejected by the orthodox Muslim clerics of Pakistan. Public protests against the minority group pressurised the political system into amending the law to bar Ahmadis from referencing “Muslim terms and practices” since it would disturb public order, thus furthering their persecution.[36] When this issue was litigated in Mujibur Rehman v. Federal Government (1985)[37] and Zaheeruddin v. State (1993)[38], the Supreme Court owing to the political pressure did not intervene in the same.[39] These cases hence serve as apt examples of the consequences that result from undesired pressure of media, public and politics over the court of law.

Therefore, litigating a religious dispute is marred by numerous issues regarding implementation, protraction and extraneous pressures, which only further disincentivize one from adopting litigation as a mode of dispute resolution in such religious conflict.

Mediation as an Alternative to Litigation in Religious Disputes

A mediation-based approach, in being based on the core interests of the parties rather than their factual submissions, is the antithesis of the litigation-based approach that chooses to focus on the parties’ versions of the facts with the objective of reaching a win-lose outcome while emotions and mutual ties of the parties remain overlooked aspects.[40] The intention of mediation is essentially to arrive at creative solutions that expand the pie, unlike litigation which determines solutions to divide resources that are assumed to be limited, i.e. a fixed pie.[41] Mediation thus places emphasis on arriving at a mutually beneficial outcome that is acceptable to both parties, unlike litigation that produces ‘pareto-optimal’ solutions.[42]

The form of positive interaction and information-sharing brought about between the parties by mediation allows for agreement over a solution without hurting sentiments of either party thereby preserving their relationship.[43] While conflicting groups tend to reject proposals outright when suggested by the other party, the same is better received when propounded by the neutral, third party mediator. The confidential nature of mediation proceedings further allays fears of manipulation of disclosed information in potential lawsuits and allows them to disclose more information conducive for interest-based negotiation.[44]

By encouraging parties to directly engage in discussion and discover their interests, mediation also facilitates a comparatively expeditious settlement in comparison to litigation since parties avoid strengthening their own positions and choose to objectively analyse the problem.[45] Direct participation and mutual agreement of the parties over the solution arrived at results in greater satisfaction and compliance by both as well. Thus, mediation may be viewed as a transitory phrase of dispute resolution that governs lawyers from a determinative to a non-determinative environment.[46]

There has been a rise in mediation of religious disputes in the Western world in recent times, with religions themselves having established arbitration mechanisms to resolve emerging disputes.[47] The reasons include cost-efficiency, comfort in confiding grievances in fellow believers rather than outside authorities and avoidance of public disclosure of private matters among others.[48] Numerous religions including Christanity, Judaism and Islam have also prescribed alternate dispute resolution as a mode of settling matters in a way different from the orthodox litigation procedure.[49]

Evidencing Mediation Tactics in Religious Disputes

The possibility of recourse to mediation in religious disputes in increasing measure is ideally evidenced by the case of Haji Ali Dargah that came up before the Bombay High Court in 2016. The dispute arose on similar grounds as the Sabarimala case with the bar on entry of women being contested by women activists through litigation. On the apex court dismissing the petition by the Dargah’s trust and allowing the entry of women, the verdict was honoured and implemented by the trust within a month.[50]

The cooperative acceptance and implementation of the verdict stands in stark contrast to the clamorous opposition of the court judgement by the Sabarimala temple priests. The court-supported reinstation of women’s right to entry in upholding gender equality was respected by the mosque authorities who only requested time for infrastructural alterations for accommodating their entry and allowed all devotees to worship without discrimination.[51] The same cooperative acquiescence is not present in the Sabarimala dispute with numerous protests by the priests and thousands of devotees.

The positive response shown towards the judgement in the Haji Ali case establishes that if the parties are willing to make concessions and generate innovative alternatives, they can determine a mutually-acceptable solution without compromising religious beliefs or constitutional rights. Mediation in religious disputes therefore has the potential to be markedly different from litigation in fostering cooperation and helping parties determine a solution without wounding their sentiments.

Hypothesizing Mediation Prospects

In the international context, the potential benefits of invoking mediation in disputes with religious dimensions are perhaps best elucidated through these pertinent case studies across the globe that may stand to benefit from mediation as a mode of dispute resolution.

(i) International Civil Wars

Civil wars across various countries are apt examples of religious disputes arising between the government-supported religion on one side and the other faiths comprise the opposing side. Characterised by a skewed power balance in favour of the former, the dispute arises due to state-supported religious intolerance in a pluri-religious nation. Attempts at forcible imposition of religious tenets across the nation are met with hostility and violence by citizens of other faiths who perceive an acute threat to their religions. The conflicts gradually intensify and result in devastating consequences, both for the parties themselves as well as the development of the nation, which is brought to a standstill.[52]

The Lebanese civil war of 1975 was one such conflict that emerged between the Christian-dominated government and the large Muslim population in response to various discriminatory policies of the State.[53] Continued clashes and rising religious tensions[54] crippled the nation for more than a decade before coming to an end with the Taif Agreement, an attempt at mutual co-existence that continues to be met with resistance by both parties.[55] The Sri Lankan Civil War of 1983 [56] is yet another instance of such conflict with state discrimination specifically being highlighted in context of Hindu Tamils persecuted by the Buddhist majoritarian government.[57]

Further, the disturbingly violent ramifications of religious disputes is pellucid in the continued mass-persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the State of Myanmar.[58] Members of this faith have been targeted by numerous military operations[59] in the Buddhist-dominated country leading to multiple violent uprisings and flagrant violation of human rights. The unabated determination of the state to impose the dominant faith on these minorities through brute strength of the military highlights the extent of obstinacy of religious conflict.[60]

Mediation may spell an effective cure for these instances of civil wars by stifling fears of threat to religion through initiation of constructive dialogue between the parties.[61] Mediation helps bridge the power disparity between both groups by emphasising the continuing benefits of a mutual creative solution for all stakeholders.[62] This mechanism would greatly reduce the possibility of violent consequences by restoring trust and relations between the parties in addressing both their interests. Facilitation of such resolution through an experienced mediation panel of international or national nature as acceptable to both parties would lead to increased cooperation in addressing the core issues.

(ii) Religious Symbols at Workplace

Another international manifestation of religious conflict is the form of opposition to religious symbols at workplace. While such symbols are regarded by the wearers as integral to their faith, the same is frowned upon as against workplace policies and corporate image.[63] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favour of petitioner Nadia Eweida against her employer British Airways in one such case.[64] While the employer held her act of wearing of a cross to work to be in breach of company policy, the Court held the same to not amount to such violation as it was discreet in nature. However, litigation in such disputes leads to a balancing test that restricts the individual’s right to religion to the extent that it impinges on others’ rights and may result in a verdict against the petitioner.[65]

A similar example is that of French secularism precluding Islamic scarves in schools, with numerous students being expelled for wearing this item of clothing.[66] Religious articles are regarded as a form of religious association contrary to the secular policy of the country, with a law in force banning such ostentatious symbols as well.[67] These incidents have been met with widespread opposition and in addition to being perceived as forced assimilation[68], also hamper the regular schooling for students belonging to the Muslim community.[69]

Mediation in such disputes between representatives of both parties would greatly aid them in understanding each other’s core concerns regarding religious beliefs and help arrive at a workable solution that addresses the same. Possible formulation of workplace policies and legislations as a result of such mediation could effectively balance rights and interests of both parties.[70]

(iii) Portrayal of Religion in Cinematic Art

Controversy over the historical accuracy of the film ‘Padmaavat’ directed by Sanjay Leela Bansali led to widespread protests by several Hindu Rajput organisations and political outfits who believed the film to portray Queen Padmavati in a bad light.[71] Eventually the court adjudicated on the issue and cleared the film after ordering certain cuts and a change in title.[72] Regardless, instances of unabated violence occurred largely due to distrust and false notions harboured by the protestors. Mediation, in such problematic instances, can prove instrumental in dispelling false notions through dialogue and encouraging the parties to work together by building faith and trust between them.[73]

These scenarios thus bear out the central argument made in favour of mediating religious conflicts, given the possibilities of an understanding-based resolution, mutually-acceptable decisions and preservation of relationship between the engaging parties that are offered by this process .

Caveats To Mediating a Religious Dispute

Religion has the power to significantly influence the nature of the conflict. Religion, in being deeply seeded in the identity of the parties, creates huge barriers in dispute resolution, also referred to as “intractability of religious conflicts”. Religious conflicts are intractable due to the perception of their indivisibility. Regarded as exclusive and immutable, any form of concession is negatively perceived as weakness.[74] As religious values are perceived to be inseparably intertwined with parties’ claims, any alterations may amount to a slight on their religions and lead to unwillingness to negotiate on any aspect.[75] Any compromise is viewed as against “God’s will” and thus, bargaining can be particularly difficult in religious disputes.[76]

The addition to rigid belief systems, the perception of moral superiority also leads to greater significance being attached to comments made by parties against each other and consequent distrust.[77] The inflexibility of accepted religious dogmas only serves to limit the scope for compromise. Differing interpretations, lack of respect and mass numerical support of followers are also potential triggers of conflict escalation.[78]

Therefore, while mediation is often sought for commercial and matrimonial disputes[79], it is not a popular choice for resolving religious conflict.[80] Divergence on world-views hinders communication and resolution unless a channel of discussion is created where both parties can trust each other as well as understand the other party’s belief structure to reach a common perspective of the issue and its consequences.[81]

Where the dispute revolves around certain resources, both parties may be unwilling to sacrifice their claims in the belief that giving up the same would imply dilution or compromise on essential religious ideals.[82] Moreover, resource-sharing may be infeasible as the faiths may value the resource itself as sacred in its entirety alone and thus indivisible.[83]

Religious practice and personal law often clash with individual’s human rights or state sovereignty.[84] It is intractability that makes it difficult to reach a solution without violating human rights.[85] In such scenarios, many argue that mediation, by its very nature of dependency on reconciliation and goodwill between the parties, is not sufficiently equipped to protect human rights and state sovereignty or to enforce pursuant resolutions.[86] For instance, the Shah Bano[87] case raised several questions over personal law and Muslim women’s rights for maintenance after divorce. Had mediation been successfully adopted in this case, it most likely would’ve been easier for litigants to engage in constructive discussion instead of facing a protracted and tedious trial. However, from a “rights”-based perspective, the case serves as a valuable precedent for ensuring protection of human and matrimonial rights of several Muslim women in the country. It has paved the path for a comprehensive law on Muslim women’s rights on divorce which has furthered the cause of constitutionality and equality.

Additionally, mediation with terror organisations may also be viewed as perilous when looked from the humanitarian perspective. In the case of Nigerian Christian-Muslim strife, tensions between both groups have led to numerous killings and extensive destruction across the country in the name of upholding religious faith.[88] Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamic movement has been rebelling against the Nigerian military and engaging in multiple massacres of Christians and other perceived enemies of Islam.[89] While military campaigns have attempted to overcome Boko Haram, a purely military solution without acknowledging the religious core of the dispute has failed to provide a proper solution to this crisis.[90] Initiating dialogue at the first instance between the rebelling Islamist groups and the government representatives on the other would help identify and resolve the primary reasons for engaging in such conflict. However, the potential benefits of concessions that undermine an individual’s human rights cannot be discounted.

Therefore, adopting mediation as a recourse to religious disputes entails facing stubborn, attitudes of religious groups, seemingly “unalterable” stances, an unparalleled desire to give effect to one’s claims with less empathy for the other, and lastly, possible abridgement of human rights in the way of compromises made by either.

Mediator’s Approach in a Religious Dispute

In such scenarios, it becomes vital for the mediator to understand the religious pasts of both parties so that they may sympathise and respect their positions better.[91] Religion is a social institution that evolves with people and society. In more ways than one, it represents the shared history, struggles and ambitions of the group.[92] Religion thus becomes important for both individual and group identity.[93] Understanding the same is therefore crucial for establishing trust and connection between the parties.[94] Additionally, obfuscating its impact on the identity of parties would be detrimental towards reaching a solution as well.[95] This being said, it is equally crucial for the mediator to keep in mind the specific ethics of mediating religious disputes over and above the general principles of mediation.

Firstly, the mediator should avoid questioning the very religious doctrines which the parties may differ on. Rather, they should be as culturally sensitive as possible and focus on the practical interpretations of these doctrines as applied by the parties in their real lives.[96] By doing so the mediator retains their trust and encourages them towards a solution[97] since the process is no longer about establishing the veracity of the religious principles that are understandably sacred to each party, rather about reaching an acceptable conjoined manifestation of those principles in the physical world.

When reaching such common understanding becomes daunting and parties choose to stick to their own incompatible interpretations, the mediator would do well to remind them of the reasons they have chosen to mediate the dispute rather than litigate it in court. Hence, secondly, parties who choose to mediate religious dispute should do so by also agreeing to understand the coexistence of a socio-religious and cultural reality different from their own.[98] They should endeavor to respect this group’s autonomy and choice as ethical requirements of a successful mediation, despite themselves being non-believers.[99] When faced with an impasse on interpretations religious principles, the mediator must remind the parties of the compromise made by choosing mediation and steer them away from absolute stances.

Thirdly, once parties have recognised the co-existence of diverging beliefs of both parties[100], they must attempt to reach a common understanding regarding the specific application of the beliefs towards resolving the conflict or completing a common task. The mediator must ensure that this pragmatic understanding is not seen as antithetical to the believers’ faith or forceful concessions extracted out of one party, but is rather viewed as a separate manifestation of their principles at a more practical and worldly level of human cognition. [101]

One way to reach this common understanding would be by highlighting the similarities in values of the two faiths by the mediator. When the same is not possible, the mediator should proceed by helping the parties accept multiple and conflicting narratives as separate realities in their minds. The focus is on creating a method for the simultaneous existence of these contradictions, so that the parties can move beyond establishing the individual legitimacy of these principles as against each other[102] and can strive to produce innovative solutions given the shared acceptance of the conflicting principles.[103]

An extensive study of cases from across the world thus serves to accentuate the multifarious benefits of mediation for resolving religious conflicts. Religious principles, being as close to the human heart and societal spirit as they are, should be determined by its reverents; its principles and values are core aspects to be decided beyond the court system and rather be chosen by the parties involved in the dispute. Only then can both sides continue an amicable relationship where neither feels defeated or “disowned” by the State’s formal judicial process. In the long run, mediation can set a powerful precedent for the more fragmented society we find ourselves hurtling towards today and allow for a healthy dialogue process which gives safety as well as closure to all stakeholders.


[1] Shraddhakar Supakar, Law of Procedure and Justice in Ancient India (Deep & Deep Publication 1986); Jerome T. Barett, A History of Alternative Dispute Resolution (Jossey-Bass 2004).

[2] Sriram Panchu, Mediation Practice and Law: The Path to Successful Dispute Resolution 10 (LexisNexis 3rd ed. 2011).

[3] Laura Nader, The ADR Explosion – The Implications of Rhetoric in Legal Reform, 8 Windsor Y.B. Access Just. 272 (1988).

[4] Hugh McIsaac, Court Connected Mediation, 21 Council. Cts. Rev. 49 (1983); Zumetra, Mediation as an Alternative to Litigation in Divorce, 62 Mich. L.J. 434 (1983).

[5] Mediation, Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009); Neil Andrews, Mediation: International Experience and Global Trends, 4 J. Int’l & Comp. L. 218 (2017).

[6] O.J. Coogler, Structured Mediation in Divorce Settlement 2 (Lexington Books 1978).

[7] Sukhsimranjit Singh, Best Practices for Mediating Religious Conflicts, Dispute Resolution Magazine, Fall 2018, 12, 13.

[8] Jeffery R. Seul, ‘Ours is the Way of God’: Religion, Identity, and Intergroup Conflict, 36(5) J.P.R. 553 (1999).

[9] Susan L. Podziba, Mediating conflicts over sacred lands, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Feb. 7 2018, 1-9.

[10] Id. at 5.

[11] Susan L. Podziba, The Need for and Conduct of a Conflict Assessment of the Sacred Esplanade of Jerusalem (2014) ,

[12] Id.

[13] Izhak Englard, The Legal Status of the Holy Places in Jerusalem, 28 Isr. L. Rev. 590 (1994).

[14] 1977 2 SCR 611.

[15] S. Anbalangan v. B. Devarajan, 1984 AIR 411.

[16] Carrie Menkel-Meadow, When Litigation Is Not the Only Way: Consensus Building and Mediation As Public Interest Lawyering, 10 Wash. U. L.J. & Pol’y 37-62 (2002).

[17] Michele Hermann et al., The Metrocourt Project Final Report 105 (1993).

[18]  John R. Allison, Five Ways to Keep Disputes Out of Court, Harvard Business Review (Jan.-Feb.1900),

[19] Dennis Overbye, Hawaiian Supreme Court Approves Giant Telescope on Mauna Kea, The New York Times (October 30, 2018),

[20] Daniel Clery, Stalled in Hawaii, giant telescope faces roadblocks at its backup site in the Canary Islands, Science Mag (September 3, 2019, 5:55 PM),

[21] E. Sarashika and Rohit Raj, Law and Religion: The Sabarimala Debate – A year down the line, International Journal of Socio-Legal Research Vol. 5 Issue 4(1), 74-85 (2019).

[22] Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. v. State of Kerala, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1690.

[23] Hannah Elis Peterson, Woman trying to visit Indian temple attacked with chilli spray, The Guardian (26 November 2019, 14:02 PM),

[24] Ferguson, Kurt E., Leigh,  Dongoske & T.J. Jenkins, MANAGING HOPI SACRED SITES TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine (December, 1995),

[25] American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1 (1996).

[26] Ratna Kapur, The Ayodhya Case: Hindu Majoritarianism and the Right to Religious Liberty, 29 Md. J. Int’l L. 331 (2014).

[27] M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors., 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1440, 22-33.

[28] Id. at 333,337; Kalyani Ramnath, Of Limited Suits and Limitless Legalities: Interpreting Legal Procedure in the Ayodhya Judgment, 5 NUALS L.J. 6 (2011).

[29] Piotr Klodkowski, Islam in India: Ideological Conflicts on the Subcontinent and Their Political and Social Consequences in the Early 21st Century, 26 Pol. Q. Int’l Aff. 9 (2017).

[30] Ved Mehta, The Mosque and the Temple – The Rise of Fundamentalism, 72 Foreign Aff. 17 (1993).

[31] Radha Kumar, India’s House Divided – Understanding Communal Violence, 81 Foreign Aff. 172 (2002).

[32] Michael Hertzberg, The Rhetorical Shadows of the Anti-Conversion Bill: Religious Freedom and Political Alliances in Sri Lanka, Nordic Journal of Human Rights 34:3, 189-202 (2016).

[33] Ben Schonthal, Tamir Moustafa et al., Is the Rule of Law an Antidote for Religious Tension? The Promise and Peril of Judicializing Religious Freedom , American Behavioral Scientist 60:8, 966-86 (2015).

[34] Jalil Hamid & Syed Azman, Malaysia’s Lina Joy loses Islam conversion case, Reuters (May 30, 2007, 10:27 AM),

[35] Ben Schonthal et al., supra note 33.

[36] Correspondent, The Blasphemy law in Pakistan – Ahmadis, The Persecution of Ahmadis (April 15, 2018),

[37] PLD 1985 FSC 8.

[38] 1993 SCMR 1718.

[39] Ben Schonthal et al., supra note 33.

[40] Mary F. Radford, Advantages and Disadvantages of Mediation in Probate, Trust, and Guardianship Matters, 1 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. 241-250 (2001).

[41] Richard Birke & Craig R. Fox, Psychological Principles in Negotiating Civil Settlements, 4(1) Harv. Negot. L. Rev. 1, 30 (1999).

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[48]  David Masci & Elizabeth Lawton, Applying God’s Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S., Pew Research Centre Religion & Public Life (April 8, 2013),

[49] Aaron T. Hubbard, Mediation and Religion: General Attitudes of Three Major Religions in the United States, Louisiana Bar Journal Vol. 63 No. 3, 196-198 (October/November 2015); Jose Ferrer Sanchez, Interfaith Dialogue in Spain – Religious Mediation: A Brief Analysis of Spain’s Religious Liberty Law, 2012 BYU L. Rev. 729, 769.

[50] Mustafa Shaikh, Mumbai’s Haji Ali holds mirror to Sabarimala, INDIA TODAY (Oct. 23, 2018),


[52] Anna Spain, Integration Matters: Rethinking the Architecture of International Dispute Resolution, 32 U. Pa. J. Int’l L. 19 (2010).

[53] Christopher Dickey, Assad and His Allies: Irreconcilable Differences, 66 Foreign Aff. 61,66 (1987); Marie-Joelle Zahar, Is All the News Bad News for Peace – Economic Agendas in the Lebanese Civil War, 56 Int’l J. 120-122 (2000).

[54] Wadie Said, The Palestinians in Lebanon: The Rights of the Victims of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process, 30 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 320 (1999).

[55] Paul Salem, The Future of Lebanon, 85 Foreign Aff. 15 (2006).

[56]  Barbara Cashman, Jeanette Laffoon & Ved P. Nanda , The Human Rights Crisis in Sri Lanka: Its Background and Possible Solutions, 15 Denv. J. Int’l L. & Pol’y 365 (1987).

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[59] Maung Zarni & Natalie Brinham, Reworking the Colonial-Era Indian Peril: Myanmar’s State-Directed Persecution of Rohingyas and Other Muslims, 24 Brown J. World Aff. 57-59 (2017).

[60] Id. at 69-71; Ariella Victoria Levine, A Modern Day Holocaust: The Genocide of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, 19 Rutgers J. L. & Religion 403-408 (2018).

[61] Louis Kriesberg, A Constructive Conflict Approach to World Struggles, 21 Brown J. World Aff. 26-28 (2015).

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[64] Correspondent, British Airways Christian employee Nadia Eweida wins case, BBC News, (Jan. 15, 2013)

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[66] Joan W. Scott, Symptomatic Politics: The Banning of Islamic Head Scarves in French Public Schools, 23(3) French Politics, Culture and Society 106 (2005).

[67]Act  2004-228 of 15 March 2004.

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[69] Aala Abdelgadir & Vasiliki Fouka, How will Austria’s new headscarf ban affect Muslims?, Wash. Post., June 3, 2019.

[70] Dr. Gail H. Forsythe, Using Mediation to Resolve Human Rights Issues In the Workplace, Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (2003).

[71] Salma Siddique, The Futility of Dreaming of the Padmavati-Khilji Dream Sequence, THE WIRE (Dec. 14, 2017),

[72] Padmavat: Controversial film cleared by India’s top court, BBC News (Jan. 18, 2018),

[73] Sungyong Lee & Abdelgabar Abdelrahman, The Intervention of Neighbor Countries in Civil War Peace Negotiations, 33 Conflict Resol. Q. 367,376 (2016).

[74] Ephraim Tabory, State and Religion: Religious Conflict among Jews in Israel, 23 J. Church & St. 275 (1981).

[75] Jamie L. Hurst, Holy Conflict: The Intersection of Religion and Mediation , Journal of Living Together 1 (1), 32-38 (2014).

[76] Amanda L. Marutzky, Making a Deal with the Devil: A Mediation Approach to Mitigating the Negative Effects of Church Conflict, Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal, Vol. 10: 2, 303-328 (2010).

[77] James E. Jr. Wood, Tolerance and Truth in Religion, 24 J. Church & St. 6 (1982).

[78] Eric Brahm, Religion and Conflict, Beyond Intractability (November 2005),

[79] Kamran Ansari v. State, 2016 S.C.C. OnLine Del 1606.

[80] Anna Spain, Integration Matters: Rethinking the Architecture of International Dispute Resolution, 32 U. Pa. J. Int’l L. 20-23 (2010).

[81] James E. McGuire, Mediation Mandate, 9 Disp. Resol. Mag. 18 (2002); Joanne Fuller & Rose Mary Lyons, Mediation Guidelines, 33 Willamette L. Rev. 908, 912 (1997).

[82] Zena D. Zumeta, Spirituality and Mediation, 11 Mediation Q. 28 (1993).

[83] Jonas Baumann et al., Rethinking Mediation: Resolving Religious Conflicts, 6/1 POLICY PERSPECTIVES 1,3 (2018); Ron Hassner, To Halve and to Hold: Conflict over Sacred Space and the Problem of Indivisibility, 12(4) Security Studies 1, 33 (2003).

[84] Robert D. Baird, Traditional Values, Governmental Values, and Religious Conflict in Contemporary India, 1998 BYU L. Rev. 342 (1998).

[85] Donel O’ Reardon, Can Religious Differences be mediated?, Mediate India

(August 2010); Robert M. Kunovich & Randy Hodson, Conflict, Religious Identity, and Ethnic Intolerance in Croatia, 78 Soc. F. 645 (1999).

[86] Kyle Beardsley, Using the Right Tool for the Job: Mediator Leverage and Conflict Resolution, 2 Penn St. J.L. & Int’l Aff.  60 (2013).

[87] Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, AIR 1985 SC 945.

[88] M. Christian Green, Religion, Family Law, and Recognition of Identity in Nigeria, 25 Emory Int’l L. Rev. 951, 954 (2011).

[89] Kimberly R. Frazier, Overthrowing the Government: What Boko Haram Means for Women, 3 U. Balt. J. Int’l L. 147-149 (2015).

[90] Elimma C. Ezeani, Responding to Homegrown Terrorism: The Case of Boko Haram, 22 Ann. Surv. Int’l & Comp. L. 30, 31 (2017).

[91] Rodney A. Max, Multiparty Mediation, 23 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 271 (1999) ;; Heidi M. Tauscher, Embracing Religion, 10 Disp. Resol. Mag. 13 (2004).

[92] F. Matthews-Giba, Religious Dimensions of Mediation, 27 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1704 (2000).

[93] Jeffery R. Seul, ‘Ours is the Way of God’: Religion, Identity, and Intergroup Conflict, 36(5) J.P.R. 553 (1999).

[94] F. Peter Phillips, There is a World Elsewhere: Preliminary Studies on Alternatives to Interest-Based Bargaining, 13 Cardozo J. Conflict Resol. 436 (2012).

[95] Sukhsimranjit Singh, Building Circles of Trust, in Stories Mediators Tell: World Edition (Lela Love & Glen Parker ed. 2017); Francis E. McGovern, Strategic Mediation, 5 Disp. Resol. Mag. 4,5 (1999).

[96] Donal O’Reardon, Can Religious Disputes Be Mediated?, (Aug 10),

[97] Simon J. A. Mason & Moncef Kartas (eds.), Transforming Conflicts with Religious Dimensions: Methodologies and Practical Experiences, 4 (2010).

[98] Supra note 92.

[99] Id.

[100] Susan L. Podziba, Harnessing Unresolvable Difference Across Abrahamic Faiths to Resolve Religion-Related Tangible Conflicts (Nov. 2, 2016).

[101] Moncef Kartas, Transforming Conflicts with Religious Dimensions: Theoretical Workshop Overview (Simon J. A. Mason & Moncef Kartas eds., 2010) 45.

[102] Supra note 97.

[103] Jean Bitter, Transforming Conflicts With Religious Dimensions: Using The Cultural-Linguistic Model  27-32 ( April 27, 2009),

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