Skip to content

International Relations Katharina McLarren

June 2023 - March 2024

Religion in International Institutions in Times of War

When studying religion in war and conflicts, the focus is mostly either on its potential to escalate or to pacify the situation. However, the role of religion during war at the international and transnational levels has so far been neglected, even though religion is represented in international organisations. The Ukraine War has seen strongly diverging roles of religions since Russia first launched attacks on 24 February 2022. While Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, presented the Russian National Guard with an icon to inspire young soldiers when defending their fatherland, Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church criticized the United Nations as being impotent in the Ukraine War. These two examples alone indicate the diverging stances religion can assume in the face of war, ranging from legitimizing acts of aggression to appealing to the international community to re-visit questions of responsibility and the ability to act. In other words, these examples reveal that religion can both strengthen as well as weaken the international order and institutions such as international law, diplomacy, or sovereignty. The first aim is to collect empirical data as to how (transnational) religious actors position themselves at the outbreak and during the course of war in a selection of cases. The second aim is to theorize on the role of religion in international, transnational, and world society, thereby further developing English School approaches to the evolution of institutions.


Dr. Katharina McLarren is a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, where she is a part of the research group on Multiplication of Authority in Global Governance Institutions (MAGGI) led by Dr. Janne Mende. She previously worked as lecturer in International Relations as well as coordinator of a DAAD-funded German-Tunisian research project. In her doctoral dissertation she focused on “Religion and International Society - Approaches to including religion in the International Relations research agenda.” Further research areas include Diplomacy Studies and Foreign Policy Analysis.


Selected publications

Onditi, F., McLarren, K., Ben-Nun, G., Okoth, P. (Hrsg.) The Palgrave Handbook of Diplomatic Thought and Practice in the Digital Age

Palgrave Handbooks (2023)

McLarren, K The Christian Churches and the Ukraine War: Introducing religious publics in global politics

Governance and Politics. Special Issue on Publics in Global Politics, 11 (3), 2023

McLarren, K. Religion as ‘Prime’ Institution of International Society.

International Studies Volume 60, Issue 1, 7-28, 2023