Religion is not under attack from another religion but mostly from within who would exploit and pervert for their own power or other self-promoting and/or aggrandizement agenda. This perversion is most evidenced by ISIS killing Muslim and non-Muslim in Iraq, Syria and beyond (as the Charlie Hebdo terror attack.) However, it infects all religions, not just in the past but now. Witness the “Anti-balaka” in the Central African Republic who are committing killings, perhaps genocide, presumably in the name of Christians against Muslims. (See: “The Decadence of Persecuting Deviance.”)
How about the “696” extremists in Myanmar led by a Buddhist monk who are engaged in ethnic cleansing and “purifying” the country with Muslims, Christians and ethnic minorities as targets? In the Ukraine, both sides claim Orthodox Christian identity but recklessly and frequently brutally kill each other in the name of the same tradition, with Catholics and Muslims as Jews previously caught up in the fight. (See: “Religion Cause for War?”) The conflicts in the Holy Land to the murders of children by the self-anointed holy warrior Anders Breivik all lean upon presumed Divine grants and authority to commit acts that all religions should stand against, and do so united.
In the light of this challenge, the world’s religious leaders met at the UN, and most critically, they must determine to fight together against intolerance or each to be torn from within by militants who would subvert, pervert and take control of each religion to kill rather than promote peace. (See: “Marking World Interfaith Week, Top UN Officials Hope for Collaboration on Sustainable Development.”) The UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa urged:
“As intolerance, bigotry and hatred continue to fuel conflicts, violence and extremism in many corners of the world, we need to strengthen our efforts to foster respect and mutual understanding between cultures, religions and ethnic groups. Every time we chose dialogue and reconciliation over confrontation, we take a step forward on our collective path to lasting peace.”
Even countries as the United States, ideologically based upon diversity by the Founding Fathers, are under assault by religious absolutists who would impose their theology and identity upon society. If you believe your religion is beyond reach of extremism, then you may be part of the problem. All our religions have been employed to save life and do good but also to abuse the other and kill. No one’s religion is better because they can claim the flaws of and abuses committed in the name of another. The absolutism of Religiosity has also been adopted by some promoting atheism – see totalitarian communism.
This week I had the opportunity to speak to the Holocaust & Genocide Studies class at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey taught by a profound scholar and practitioner Dr. Carol Rittner, also a member of the Sisters of Mercy. Susan Sacirbey who participated and I were energized by the discussions and the notion that tolerance starts with the embrace of diversity, that genocide begins with the violation of human rights particularly targeting the identity of “the other”. The Professor passed around a gift to all her students, a copy of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The gift is in the principles embodied for all of us. It is a notion that is shared by all religions of substance, and must be the foundation of any Interfaith dialogue and be viewed as Sacred as any of our Holy Books. While our personal capacity to respond and remedy violations of human rights and assaults upon peace and understanding may be limited, my message to the Genocide class students is to be informed and not turn away from the painful pictures and stories. We all can at least contribute our own words or even breath to help the course of history sail toward the positive. More to today’s divides and debates, do not bestow upon the militants and extremists the titles and identity of religions which they seek to claim as their own – claiming God as their own offends the Supreme particularly if done to the exclusion and persecution of others.
By, Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey