In religious war, can there ever be peace?

There are people who are deeply offended by the notion that religion plays any role in warfare and its causes. Certainly it is a hot button issue because the basic premise for most religions is a message of peace and brotherhood toward fellow human beings.

There are people who are deeply offended by the notion that religion plays any role in warfare and its causes.

Certainly it is a hot button issue because the basic premise for most religions is a message of peace and brotherhood toward fellow human beings.

I guess that a case could be made for a grotesque misinterpretation of religious principles by ambitious thugs that distort their particular religious order’s message into a self-serving tool for death and destruction. It could be accurately concluded that the people who initiate bloodshed and war under the guise of religious righteousness are not a fair example of the religion itself.

I could buy that explanation if more of the people who believe in the spiritual tenets of the religion would condemn those who use their religion to exact genocide on other faiths. The situation in Egypt is a current example of persecution by one religion on another faith.

The Middle East is a focal point for three major religions, all of which have credited the region as the birthplace of their faiths. It has destabilized the region to a loose balance of power in which Israel is the primary home of the Jewish faith, while its neighbours lean heavily toward Islam.

One of the smallest religious entities in the Middle East would be Christianity, and its practitioners find themselves in a very dangerous world in some of the Middle East countries. They are not universally accepted possibly because their religion still represents the Crusades to the Moslem world.

The Crusades were an ambitious plan that began about a thousand years ago when Christian-led forces were ordered to regain the Holy Land from Islam. Jerusalem has always been a Holy epicentre for Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths and its occupation is not easily shared by any of the three religions.

The net result of the Crusades was a long history of religious conflict that was perpetuated by bloodshed and invasion over the centuries. It is true that religious forces were not always the driving force behind occupation, but the inter-faith hatred and distrust never abated in the region.

So now we find ourselves firmly entrenched in a highly volatile phase in the Middle East. Strongman dictators in the Middle East are falling faster than Greece’s credit status and the question arises: what’s the new guy like?

Egypt has yet to sort out its new leader, pending an undetermined future election, but it is clearly under military control in a “meet the new boss — same as the old boss” kind of way.

Attacks against Coptic Christians have accelerated in recent days and their protests have been met with deadly force by Egypt’s military forces. Egypt is a tough place to worship these days for the average Christian and it is doubtful that things will get better for these people.

The composition of a future Egyptian government has yet to be determined, but it would be safe to assume that it will not be an all-inclusive religious buffet in any way, shape or form. The likelihood of a fair and just society with basic freedom of religious expression is as probable as a July snowstorm in Cairo.

I hesitate to zero in on the Egyptians, but they are the most current example of state-mandated religious intolerance. Elements of the same can be found in every region of the world if you want to scratch beneath a very thin surface.

None of the three religions with historical roots in the Middle East can take a bow for their involvement in bloodshed and conflict over the centuries. The basic tenets of their religions are not based in violence and retribution, and it is past the time when practitioners of any of them can allow people to exact war on other people under their religion’s banner.

A pretty fair case for religion as a cause of war could easily be made because, as long as it is allowed to happen, it is a fact of life-and death — no matter what counter-argument comes my way.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance columnist. He can be reached at jim@mystarcollectorcar.com.