Mar 18, 2015

Need to counter myth that religions lead to global conflicts

Need to counter myth that religions lead to global conflicts – Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy states at Three Faiths Forum

Please click the following link to view Bishop Leahy on RTE news , It’s 16mins 14secs into the bulletin.

Religious leaders need to stand side by side in showing how religion can provide a lead in resolving conflict, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy stated at Three Faiths Forum gathering in the Mansion House tonight.

Speaking at the event titled ‘Religions and Global Conflict’, Bishop Leahy said that while religion has been in some cases “hijacked” by forces intent only on personal profit of one kind or another, it is not the cause of conflicts.

“A superficial reading of religions and global conflict bring some to view religions as only a negative influence in our world. I know and acknowledge that there can be what the American professor Scott Appleby describes as the ‘ambivalence of the Sacred’. There are deviant forms of religion.  It does happen that religions find themselves taken up into conflict issues of identity, in many cases hijacked by forces intent only on personal profit of one kind or another.

“When aligned to various political currents that promote a logic of enmity, religions can become vehicles of mutual exclusion through the absolutizing of some of their texts or institutions.”

Bishop Leahy said that the 1986 Assisi meeting of religions for peace, which he attended, was an example of how various faiths can come together in the name of peace.  However, today we need to be careful not to fall into the myth, born often out of a Western ideological stance, that religions are generally sources of the conflicts of civilisation.

“Religion is not usually the sole or even primary cause of conflict.  In short, while religions are not the causes of conflict they have a very valuable role to play in the transformation of conflict.

“Think close to home and the names of Alec Reid, Harold Good, Ken Newell, Edward Daly and Ruth Patterson spring to mind.  Men who took on key leadership roles within their own communities in the way that leadership works best; inspiring others entrenched in hatred and enmity to forgive and heal.

“Today’s global conflicts are serious but the causes are to be found not in religions but in other dynamics. Last year when visiting a military memorial in Italy on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war, Pope Francis commented that ‘even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third [world] war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction...’.

“This is happening, he said, because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms. But it also happening because there is a terrible globalization of indifference to these causes of many of today’s conflict.”

Ultimately, he said, the light of the Golden Rule ‘do unto others what you would like them do unto you’ is found in some version or another in many religions and needs to be the starting-point for all to work from.   “If we want to move forward from global conflict to global peace, our world, especially in the West, needs to experience a shift from a culture of indifference to an active promotion of the globalization of fraternity.

“This is where religious communities come in. We need to commit ourselves to highlighting the points to do with fraternity at the interpersonal level that our religions’ texts and traditions contain. There is much in each of our religions to do with love, respect, compassion and justice. Characteristics which are core to our religions and yet hardly characteristics that could be sources of conflict.  They are also characteristics that give rise to healing and transformation.

“What I am proposing this evening is that religious leaders need to counter the myth that religions lead to global conflicts. We need to highlight how much our religions talk about fraternity. We need to stand side by side, spiritually and visibly in doing this. We also need to remind each other that the way of fraternity is not always easy. Religions teach the significance of perseverance in seeking peace. We need to know how to “forgive” if we want to promote peace.”