The liabilities of the exploitation of religion as a tools of intolerance,
hatred and violence throughout history are overwhelming.
Sadly, we do not
learn the lessons of “sacred” antagonism and conflict within and among religious
communities. Is there any hope of reversing, or at least minimizing, perpetual
religious-based confrontations and maximizing interfaith relations in the
future? The short answer is definitely “yes – if we want to.”
the recent record is most discouraging.
Consider several religious-based
incidents that occurred this month: the killings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin
perpetrated by a white supremacist; the Sunni and Alawite sectarian clashes in
Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli; the bombing of churches and murdering of
Christians in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group; and the fleeing
of people from the fighting between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslims in
India’s Assam state.
Indeed, the most dramatic manifestation of the
current uncompromising theological self-righteousness and repeated calls for
“holy war” is the intensification of a propaganda and psychological warfare
campaign directed against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Modern
anti-Semitism in all its different forms, including incitement, threats,
vandalism, desecration and direct physical assault is on the rise throughout the
For instance, in March 2012, a Muslim shot dead a teacher and
three children at the Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse. Hundreds of
other anti-Semitic incidents have occurred in many countries this year from
Australia to the United Kingdom. Moreover, recent terrorist plots and attacks
against Israeli targets abroad were recorded in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, India
What is particularly disturbing and most threatening is
Shi’ite Iran’s advancement toward nuclear weaponization.
this month by Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, that “the superfluous and
fake Zionist [regime] will disappear from the landscape of geography,”
underscores once again the nature of the looming mortal danger not only to the
Jewish state but perhaps even the survival of civilization itself.
face of the unprecedented contemporary challenge of the “religionization” of
politics and its grave humanitarian and strategic implications, it behooves the
international community to draw a red line of unacceptable behavior in the name
of religion for any cause.
A sensible ecumenical approach to conflict
resolution was communicated on August 3, 2012, by the Vatican’s statement at the
end of Ramadan. It asserted that “justice is determined first of all by the
identity of the human person, considered in his or her entirety; it cannot be
reduced to its communicative and distributive dimension. We must not forget that
the common good cannot be achieved without solidarity and fraternal
It is this message that might be adapted as an initial step by
every religion dedicated to supporting peace-making efforts.
is Director of the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies in Arlington,
Virginia. Naomi Pike is on the center’s staff and contributed research
for the article. They can be reached at YAlexander@PotomacInstitute.org