Remedy for rising violence | Daily News


Remedy for rising violence

Religious violence is undergoing a revival. The past decade has witnessed a sharp increase in violent sectarian or religious tensions. These range from Islamic extremists waging global Jihad and power struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East to the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar and outbreaks of violence between Christians and Muslims across Africa. According to Pew, in 2018 more than a quarter of the world's countries experienced a high incidence of hostilities motivated by religious hatred, mob violence related to religion, terrorism, and harassment of women for violating religious codes.

The spike in religious violence is global and affects virtually every religious group. A 2018 Minority Rights Group report indicates that mass killings and other atrocities are increasing in countries both affected and not affected by war alike. While bloody encounters were recorded in over 50 countries, most reported lethal incidents involving minorities were concentrated in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hostilities against Muslims and Jews also increased across Europe, as did threats against Hindus in more than 18 countries. Making matters worse, 55 of the world’s 198 countries imposed heightened restrictions on religions.

Building good relations with people of different faiths and beliefs

Interreligious and ecumenical gathering

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo
January 13, 2015

Dear friends,

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this meeting which brings together, among others, the four largest religious communities integral to the life of Sri Lanka: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. I thank you for your presence and for your warm welcome.

At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church declared her deep and abiding respect for other religions. She stated that she “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines” (Nostra Aetate, 2). For my part, I wish to reaffirm the Church’s sincere respect for you, your traditions and beliefs.

These praiseworthy initiatives have provided opportunities for dialogue, which is essential if we are to know, understand and respect one another. But, as experience has shown, for such dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions. Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are. But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common. New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship.

Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family. It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.

For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed. 

In an era of turbulence and uncertainty, interfaith action may offer an important antidote to religious violence. Religious communities can and do offer a reminder of the core principles of our common humanity. While not the exclusive preserve of faith-based groups, the conscious spread of values of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and altruism are needed today more than ever. The persistent calls for patience, tolerance, understanding, face-to-face dialogue and reconciliation are more important than ever given today’s spiraling polarisation and the dangerous anonymity provided by social media.

Why religion is important in conflict prevention

The Right Reverend Duleep de Chickera, former Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka, delivered a sermon during a service to mark the opening of the Lambeth Conference.

“The first thing about Religion is that it must never be seen as one large entity. So the topic needs qualification. Religion is a number of worlds, within a world.

It is vast, it is varied, it is controversial, contradictory and complex. So whenever the word religion is used, we are compelled to add a right end to clarify and redefine and so on. Now let’s keep that in mind through today’s discussion. It’s not a homogenous identity. Secondly, again something very obvious, historically, religions have been responsible for both a great deal of harm to human kind as well as healing. And during different periods in the history of human kind, religions have gone like this; up and down, spreading conflict, discrimination, initiating violence against people and cultures and other religions and so on.

Then again running parallel with this, has been the healing trend. Millions of men and women, either as individuals and or in communities, have made a positive transforming impact on life. They have been able rise above that which divides, crushes, and separates and so on. So we need to keep this in mind, the contradictory element in all religions.

Now, having said that, if religion is to impact in the process of reconciliation there are one or two aspects of conflict that religion must try and comprehend. The first, again stating the obvious, is that conflict recurs – whether it is personal or social. So within history, we are not going to reach a state in which there will be no conflict. Consequently, the responsibility of religion is to respond to conflict in such a way that if there is grievance it is addressed and justice must be done. If there is potential to harm that must be reduced or eliminated, if there are lessons to be learnt, they must be learnt. And there must be growth as far as possible, of the different segments that belong to that particular society.

We have reached this stage of interreligious tensions today, because moderates in all religions have failed. We have failed to simply sustain relationships of trust and friendship. That’s one area. Another area in which we have failed is to have a kind of a restrictive dialog with extremists within our respective religions.

For instance, if there are extremists within the Christian church it becomes the primary responsibility of moderates within the Christian church to address them. And to address them in terms of Christian doctrine and teachings of Christ, and so on. Similarly in Islam, similarly in Buddhism and all other religions, Hinduism included.

Now when this happens you see, you find that the gap of distrust gradually shrinks. And when that happens, something that this country needs very urgently will then fall into place, and that is cross border solidarity building with other communities.

For too long we have had one community only speak and when that community is affected. So we got to cross these borders. Buddhists must speak on behalf of Muslims. Christians must speak on behalf of Hindus. And similar the ethnic border-crossing.

It is then that religions contribute towards becoming a family. And when that strength is displayed in any democratic society, the state, no matter what its intention maybe, has to take note.

And the only way that religions can speak with one voice, is if the moderates come to their senses, build trust, stand together, protect each other when the other is subject to harm. And then declare to the nation, that religions speak with one voice.”

- Rev. Duleep Chickera

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