The Religion and Democratic Contestation Initiative is focused on improving our understanding of religious responses to emergent rights-based social justice mobilizations in Latin American democracies. Building on a now completed project focused on the relationship of religion to violence in Latin America under circumstances both of dictatorship and democracy, the present initiative seeks to describe and compare how religious actors, organizations, and hierarchies are currently participating in transnational, national and local advocacy associated with two widespread sources of conflicts characteristic of the region’s democracies: conflicts over extractive resources and relating to environmental and climate justice, on the one hand, and contestation relating to gender and sexuality, on the other. In so doing, this initiative plans to assess the extent of continuity and change in religious approaches to rights and justice in Latin America, from the past to the present.
The environment and gender were chosen as topics to organize the current project, given the evident public debate and social contestation these two questions generate in Latin America today, and our assessment that public perceptions of these issues are changing. This project gives particular attention to interactions between religion and governments, religious and civil society actors, and between local and transnational advocacy networks, including the role of religious actors in the creation and application of the law. A primary project goal is to identify and explain the range of variation of religious orientations to rights, justice and to the law. A second goal is to identify the sources of specific conceptions of rights and justice for religious advocacy, as articulated by theological concepts and positions, by local, and national engagements, but also by religious participation in transnational advocacy networks dedicated to these issues.
This project is directed by Robert Albro, a Research Associate Professor at CLALS, together with the Center's Director, Eric Hershberg, and co-Principal Investigators, Evan Berry, currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion and co-director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs Master’s Program at American University, and Macarena Sáez, Director of the Impact Litigation Project at American University’s Washington College of Law. This project is supported by a two-year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.