Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

World Religions in War and Peace in Conflict and Concord

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

World Religions in War and Peace in Conflict and Concord

Article excerpt


This paper is my contribution to the twentieth anniversary of the Oxford Round Table that met in Oxford July 13-18, 2008. The topic of the Round Table was "Religion: The politics of Peace and Conflict." In choosing this theme the Oxford Round Table cited "the religious strife in national and international affairs," the apparent "insoluble disharmony in The Middle East," and "religious discord in most other sectors of the world as well." (1)

While the Middle East is the most salient example of religious conflict, the Religious Tolerance organization based in Ontario keeps tabs on twenty-five conflicts worldwide. (2) These range from the Afghanistan War-- pitting the Taliban and Al Qaida against the Northern Alliance of Afghans (with an assist from the U.S. and Britain), to the conflict between the Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka, to the Sudan where the Muslim regime committed genocide against both Animists and Christians. (3) The listing may be found at Religious Tolerance. org.

It should be obvious from this listing referenced above that--though other factors enter into these conflicts: economics, race, class, ethnicity, nationalism, and political ambitions-religious conflict is real, and, if we wish to gain a peaceful community of nations and states, we neglect it at our peril. For this reason, we need to understand the dynamics that lead to religious conflict and also what it is within religions that may provide a basis for concord.

In this regard, it is the thesis of this work that every world religion contains within it both the seeds that lead to conflict and those that lead to concord and peace. Many of the sources that lead to conflict or peace come directly from "divine" commandments or directives, teachings from scriptures and the writings of the interpreters of a particular faith. Other conflicts arise, not from (4) "divine" direction, but out of the claims of one religion which run counter to the culture, politics, and beliefs of other religions. It is in the area of the mutually exclusive claims of one faith vis-a-vis another that conflict may arise as these religions bump up one against another.

Another cause for conflict occurs when persons forget the "true values" of their religion and are enticed by culture, the state, zealots, or political leaders into committing acts contrary to the teachings of their faith. One of the best examples of this is the Crusades in which the participants meant so well when they went into battle to glorify Christ. However, when we reflect on the Crusades, it's hard to imagine "The Prince of Peace" at the head of those armies with their swords red with innocent or not so innocent blood. More of the contradictions between faith and action, peace and conflict, will be discussed later under the heading "A Brief History of Religion in War and Peace."

The aim of this process is that the information provided may begin to provide a framework for understanding some of the causes and cures for interfaith conflict. I also pray that it will push us toward renewed effort in finding ways for differing faiths to work together for the common good and in promoting peace in the world. In our common discourse, hopefully, we may find reasonable and workable means to resolve conflicts among religions and cultures while producing a model that will allow adherents to maintain their religious loyalties as they work together in harmony for the good of humankind. It is "God's" love and our love for humanity that should bind religions together in peace and in common cause.


Prior to the next section of this paper, "The Dialectic Problem," we need to understand how the scriptures and "Holy Writings" of the World's Religions will be used here. We want to be clear that in dealing with the sources of conflict and peace found in the writings of the religions of the world, no attempt will be made to interpret or subject to literary criticism the writings of these faiths. …

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