Very Short Notes on Johan Galtung: Examining Religious Based Violent Conflict

Comments on Johan Galtung, Peace, Research, Education, Action, (Copenhagen: Christian Eljers, 1975), I.1. & I.4., pp. 29-48, 109-134.


I fascinate Johan Galtung’s background both as a Mathematician and as a Norwich Lutheran Christian. As a mathematician he used to think with rigorous and logic arguments. On the other hand, his Christian understanding of Peace might arguably influenced the way he thought about Peace.

I would like to talk further on the issue of religious based violent conflict based on Johan Galtung’s book entitled Peace, Research, Education, Action (1975). Galtung mentioned two social cosmologies of violent conflict, “actor oriented” and “structure oriented” (p. 22). Question that came to my mind then: How does religion’s role as the root of violent conflict based on Galtung’s terminology of these ‘cosmologies’?  How should we categorise the actor oriented and structure oriented in religious based violent conflict? Since, religion had been engaged very deeply in societies’ life for centuries. On religious based violent conflict, there were groups of people who fight one each other (the actors) in which influenced by religious ideology (structure) that underlying their way of thinking and making decisions.

Galtung contends, “violence is present when human beings are being influence so that this actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations”. Religious fundamentalism makes people cannot think clearly due to arguably influenced by their problematic religious radical ideology (or theology). Mental realisation that mentioned by Galtung implied to fundamentalism in religions in which encumbered  people understanding of their religion. Thus, people cannot not think out of their radical understanding locus. People might be thinking that killing other people (from different religious belief) in the name of religion were rightful. Meanwhile, religion is believed could contribute positive ideas on peace in society.

On page 31, Galtung asserts, “past generations techniques of freeing individuals from internal conflict depended on religion conversion, whereas in contemporary societies psychotherapy is more frequently called for-if not for its present leaders, at least as a for its leaders, and if not for its present leaders, at least as a screening device for future leaders”. In my opinion, there were paradigm shift occurred on the way of seeing religion in modern society, especially in so called developed countries. Since the Enlightenment and Secularisation sprang in European continent in 17th century, religion has been arguably pushed into private area rather in public sphere. Therefore, religion’s role in freeing individual internal conflict in society in the past has been replaced by psychotherapy approach as argued by Galtung. This concept might bring major effects on seeing religion in personal and social relation. However, we should consider how is religion’s role in internal conflict of individuals and public life in the Global South? There might be some major differences. I leave this question open for further reflection. []

Psychology and Education: The link of ‘concientization’ and dialogue method of Paulo Freire on promotion of peace

This short paper was written for a response of group discussion on ICU Peace Studies course entitled, “Psychology of Peace and Conflict Resolution” which conducted by Prof. Toshiaki Sasao (ICU Professor in Psychology, Education and Peace Studies) in Spring Term 2014.


Contributions of psychology practitioners on issues of peace, security and conflict are in particular regarding the moral responsibility and expertise of this respective community. Psychology examines the attitudes, values and beliefs of individuals and human in groups on its human nature including on the way of thinking about peace and conflict. Human being has the structure and function of mind which determine as its reality. The way human being comprehends the world and its “reality” keeps changing as well as the way of human being determines the notion of peace and conflict also changing.

Psychology contribution to peace is intertwined with the role of education, since education mainly rely on psychology in its educating process. Education is one of key elements on peace promotion in this world. One of the main problems within humanity is reluctant on the awareness and acceptance of diversity. Education that enlighten and liberate people from illiteracy and innumeracy inspire people to the realization of more peaceful world that respect humankind diversity without any discrimination and bias to the different people from any part of the world. Education is expected to lure people on the appreciation of human kind and life itself. Education leads to enlighten people who respect and responsibly live in society and in a wider global citizenship.

The education concept of concientization and dialogue from Paulo Freire that had been practicing mainly in South America community has the similar direction of the intertwine psychology and education on promoting peace and social justice. As Galtung’s notion of peace that comprises negative peace and positive peace, peace in this term is not only the absence of direct violence (psychical violence, conflict or war) but also the absence of indirect violence (structural violence), or in the other words is the realization of social justice.

By concientization and dialogue method, Freire tried to dismantle the culture of silence in South American society, in particular in Brazil and the traditional passive concept of education in school (banking education). Concientization is translation of Portuguese term conscientização, which is also translated as “consciousness raising” and “critical consciousness”. In this sense, educating people can be done from children on their growing process and also for adults to eradicate illiteracy and innumeracy among them. In particular, learning to read for adults is a process in which content and materials bearing people daily reality, for instance topics on nationalism, profit remittances abroad, the political revolution in Brazil, illiteracy, the vote for the illiterates, and democracy. The process encourages active participation (dialogue) and critical thinking of people own concrete social reality that expected lead into awareness of the possibilities for action and change ‘reality’ toward social justice and welfare for the community. By this meaning, psychology through education can contributes in practical to the eradication of illiteracy and innumeracy toward more peaceful and justice world. []



Avoseh, M.B.M., Literacy and Conscientization in Paulo Freire’s Philosophy of Education, was accessed from: at April 17th, 2014 at 20:10.

Christie, Daniel J. and Cristina J. Montiel, “Contribution Psychology to War and Peace” atAmerican Psychologist “Peace Psychology”, October 2013.

Nyirenda, Juma E., The Relevance of Paulo Freire’s Contributions to Education and Development in Present Day Africa, was accessed from at April 17th, 2014 at 20:00.

Sasao, Toshiaki, “General Description”, Course Syllabus of the Psychology of Peace and Conflict Resolution, Spring Term 2014.

Vollhardt, Johanna K. and Rezarta Bilali, “Social Psychology’s Contribution to the Psychological Study of Peace: A Review”, Social Psychology 2008; Vol. 39 (1):12–25.