Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Religious Contribution to Developing Shared Values and Peace *

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Religious Contribution to Developing Shared Values and Peace *

Article excerpt

As was clearly stated in the Barcelona Declaration on the Role of Religion in the Promotion of a Culture of Peace, "religion is not the sole remedy for all the ills of humanity, but it has an indispensable role to play in this most critical time" (no. 2). In fact, nothing is, or can be, the sole remedy. Especially in the last two centuries or so, many people came to believe that science, for example, would be the sole remedy, but now we, the "moderns" living in the so-called postmodern era, realize that it is not. The remedy ought to be sought in the total, and thus integrated, achievements of human endeavor without harming the partial or relative autonomy of each achievement. In other words, we need science as much as we need art, morality, and religion. This is especially true when the infinitely complex social life is in question. Some people, for example, can do without religion in their private life-experience. However, in social life they, too, come face-to-face with the reality of religion and the religious. If religion as a social fact is important for certain sections of a given community, then it is important for the whole community, including the agnostic, the atheist, and the nonreligious.

I think that this important point is often neglected or even bluntly pushed aside by those who are in charge of the so-called "big affairs" at national and international levels. There are, of course, many reasons for this policy, some of which may not be without reasonable foundations.

To begin with, we do not have enough reliable knowledge about "the religious picture" in a given situation, which requires attendance. There is an old saying: "Ignorance is darkness, and darkness frightens." Darkness gets deeper, especially in certain parts of the world where religion has never had the chance to be studied in a scientific and scholarly way. The situation in the Southeast European countries constitutes a good example to recall and to study. In this part of the world even traditional religious knowledge, or at least some important portions of it, could not have been preserved under authoritarian and totalitarian regimes whose basic character was atheism, militant or otherwise.

It is strange to observe that under those circumstances, although the religious elements grew weaker, prejudices with religious roots remained alive and even became stronger among different ethnic and racial communities. When the oppressive political structure collapsed, those potentially destructive prejudices moved to the foreground to feed hatred, animosity, and, eventually, bloody violence.

Further, religious cases, or cases having religious dimensions, are delicate issues to be handled with the utmost care. This is especially the case in inter-communal and international matters. It is perhaps because of this delicacy that, in the discourse of diplomats, international policy-makers, and people with similar functions, references to religion are studiously avoided. Generally speaking, I have no objection to this cautious approach. Religion should not be brought in if a given situation does not make it necessary. Nevertheless, it is utterly wrong to avoid religion if it is already there and functioning in a visible way. If the case is such, then avoiding religion may lead us to some grave errors in our struggle toward "diagnosing" the issue at hand and perhaps "treating" it. We have to bear in mind that hard facts are not always pleasing and do not disappear by not being attended to.

While talking about the neglect of the religious dimension in national and international affairs, I would like to mention another equally important point. Due to a fairly secularized version of modern education and life experience, many researchers, analysts, diplomats, and politicians are not equipped to recognize and deal with the issues that have direct bearings upon religion. …

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