IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Religion and Peace I

Religion and Peace is a huuuuge topic, so I expect we will come back to it again and again.  For starters, one has to wonder whether religion (understood broadly) is “part of the solution” or “part of the problem” when it comes to peace.  Today, of course, many probably think the latter, given the constant linking of terrorism with certain forms of religious fanaticism.  However, as even the most cursory study of almost any of the great faith traditions reveals, religion has always been about peace, in some form. “Inner peace” is certainly a prominent goal of most spiritual quests, and social peace and harmony is often linked to religious commitment–consider the “golden rule” of reciprocity (“due unto others….”) which is found in nearly all traditions.  But, you say, haven’t there been many wars in the name of religion, including the Crusades, the 30 years war, and others? Yes, but even during the Middle Ages the Pope could, on his moral authority alone, stop wars permanently  or, at least, temporarily (the Truce of God and the Peace of God….if memory of my college medieval history class serves 🙂 ).

So, there seem to be a variety of contradictions here, which indicate that that which has a potential to promote peace, in many contexts has also served as a motiviation for war.  These persist today.  I have referred to contemporary fanatics, who with their suicide attacks have become the “face” of terror.  At the same time, many (but by no means all) of the most committed “peacemakers” (individuals and NGOs) who intervene in situations to try to mediate conflicts and/or contribute to post-conflict peacebuilding draw their inspiration from faith traditions.  Consider the whole “reconciliation” framework of acknowledgment, contrition and forgiveness, which became widely known during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa.  It is derived from a very Judeo-Christian idea of being “reconciled” with God and with one’s fellow creatures.  It has, in short, spiritual roots, as many approaches to conflict intervention do (even if they are not explicitly “religious”.

So, is religion more part of the solution, or more part of the problem?

(to be continued…)

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August 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Some of the most peaceful people I have ever met have been religious. I think religion can be very beneficial to society in broad strokes, but becomes dangerous in its more dogmatic and fundamentalist forms.

    Comment by Nathan Andover | August 16, 2008 | Reply


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