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.”

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Admittedly, 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 world.

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 and Thailand.

What is particularly disturbing and most threatening is Shi’ite Iran’s advancement toward nuclear weaponization.

The statement 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.

In the 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 love.”

It is this message that might be adapted as an initial step by every religion dedicated to supporting peace-making efforts.

The author 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

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