Faith and Peaceful Relations

Faith and Peaceful Relations

Faith and Peaceful Relations (FPR) researches religion in order to work for peace and build social justice. At FPR we uncover and explore the important yet often unrecognised ways in which religious and non-religious belief contribute to justice and injustice in society. We aim to answer philosophical and practical questions to critically examine the role of religious and spiritual practices and beliefs in contemporary society.

The video below is from our AHRC funded Re/presenting Islam on Campus that aimed to build understanding, dialogue and narratives of inclusion on campus.

About our group

In the words of various FPR colleagues: ‘To undertake and promote academically rigorous research into the relationships between religion (or faith or belief) and peaceful relations’. (Lucy Peacock) ‘The group is about enabling people of all faiths and none to reflect on how to live together without violence.’ (Laura Payne) ‘The group engages in research that can inform society, develop understanding between faith and society, as well as between different positions of faith and belief, in order to create more harmonious and peaceful relationships in the world.’ (Dilwar Hussain)

We also believe that research can help to build social justice. Stephanie Denning, describing her and Chris Shannahan’s Life on the Breadline research, said ‘the Life on the Breadline research aims to understand how churches are responding to UK poverty in order to better inform government policy making and reduce UK inequality.’

Our academic rigour comes from a wide disciplinary base, including politics, international relations, sociology, experimental psychology, Islamic studies, theology, religious studies media & communications & geography. The theologians among us have a clear sense of vital place theology has. As Chris puts it, in the group ‘theology can be a force for social justice.’

We want to be both academically critical & practically engaged (Paul Weller tells us, ‘the group aspires to take both a properly critical & practically engaged approach’). We want to write journal articles & books that help people understand religion but also achieve impact in society & in grassroots communities.

What impact do we want to achieve? In addition to academic knowledge, it’s peaceful coexistence between individuals & communities. As Mabel Alkali put it, ‘The group aims to carry out impactful research…that will enable peaceful understanding and coexistence within diverse faith groups, people of faith and the secular world’.

We work alongside local or religious communities. In our analysis of religion we hear lesser-heard voices, for example women, children and the economically deprived, and explore their roles in the intellectual and social ‘production’ and transformation of religion’ (Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor). ‘We strive to stand with and empower people who have been left out or left behind & to use our research alongside faith communities to speak truth to power’ (Chris Shannahan).

The Faith & Peaceful Relations group undertakes research with, on and for people of all faiths and none. Our group has a strong sense that we can contribute new knowledge & practical impacts in today’s world – our research can make the world a better place, and this is why we do it.

Our team

Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Assistant Professor, Research Group Leader

Islam, Muslim women, feminism, digital methodologies, religion in higher, religion and non-religion in Britain

Chris Shannahan , Associate Professor

Religion and politics, religion and multiculturalism, theology and poverty, secularisation, hip-hop

Dilwar Hussain, Research Fellow

Islam, contextual theology, extremism, radicalisation, British Muslims, urban theology

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Jonathan Jong, Assistant Professor

Death anxiety, Religious belief, Ritual behaviour, Social psychology, Experimental psychology, Evolutionary psychology

Kristin Aune, Professor

Religion in higher education, sociology of religion, gender, feminism, secularism, chaplaincy

Laura Payne, Research Fellow

Faith-based peacebuilding, religious violence, conflict transformation, civil society, youth, peace processes


Liyanaarachchige Perera, Visiting Fellow

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Lucy Peacock, Research Fellow

Religion and Higher Education, Interfaith Encounters
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Miguel Farias, Associate Professor

Social cognition, Psychology of belief, Personality and mental health

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Paul Weller, Professor

Religion, state and society


Serena Hussain, Associate Professor

Social and spatial trends of Muslims; South Asian diasporas; minority group identity & mobilisation
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Stephanie Denning, Assistant Professor

Poverty, Food poverty, Holiday hunger, Volunteering, Christianity, Faith-based social action, Affect theory
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Valerie van Mulukom, Research Fellow

Belief, Cognitive science of religion, Imagination, Episodic memory, Creativity, Unbelief, Secular beliefs, Worldviews, Intuition, Social bonding

Project spotlight


Minorities on Campus

This project aims to address issues around sustained inequality and discrimination as experienced by minorities and women on Indian campuses.

Christian FBO's and Covid-19

The impact Covid-19 on Christian FBO's in Great Britain

The project will investigate and identify the human, financial and organisational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Christian Faith-Based Organisation service sector.


Muslim children in care

This project seeks to improve life outcomes for Muslim children and in the long run all children in the care system.


Life on the breadline

A 3 year ESRC-funded project analysing the nature, scope and impact of Christian engagement with urban poverty in the UK in the context of austerity since the 2008 financial crisis.

understanding unbelief

Understanding Unbelief

Understanding Unbelief is a major research programme aiming to advance the scientific understanding of atheism and other forms of so-called ‘unbelief’ around the world.


Modest Fashion in UK Women’s Working Life

This project looks at how religiously-related modest fashion and associated behaviours impact on UK women's working lives – regardless of their own religious community or beliefs.

Select publications


  • Aune, K. & Holyoak (2018) ‘Navigating the third wave: Contemporary UK feminist activists and “third-wave feminism”’ Feminist Theory 19(2): 183-203
  • Cheruvallil-Contractor, S., (2020) ‘Women in Britain’s First Mosques: Hidden from History, but Not without Influence’ Religions 2020, 11, 62 
  • Shannahan, C. (2019). The Violence of Poverty: Theology and Activism in an 'Age of Austerity'. Political Theology, 20(3), 243-261. 
  • Denning, S. (2020) ‘Religious Faith, Effort and Enthusiasm: Motivations to Volunteer in Response to Holiday Hunger’ Cultural Geographies, 
  • Jong, J., Baimel, A., Ross, R., McKay, R., Bluemke, M., & Halberstadt, J. (2020). Traumatic life experiences and religiosity in eight countries. Scientific Data, 7, 140. doi:10.1038/s41597-020-0482-y 
  • Farias, M. & Newheiser, A. (2019). The effects of belief in God and science on acute stress. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6, 214-223.
  • Weller, P. (2016). Balancing Within Three Dimensions: Christianity. Secularity and Religious Plurality in Social Policy and Theology. Studies in Interreligious Dialogue, 26, 2, 131-146.
  • Hussain, Dilwar, “Towards a British Islam”, in Interreligous Insight, Vol 17, No 1 (June 2019).
  • Payne, L. (2020) What can Faith-Based Forms of Conflict Prevention Teach Us About Liberal Peace?’ Religions, Vol. 11, No. 4.
  • van Mulukom, V. (2019). The Cognitive Science of Imagination and Religion. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion 5(1), 5-20.

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