Religion and conflict: The myth of an inevitable collision

Indonesian Special Forces Police walks by burned motorcycles following a blast at GPPS in SurabayaLeaving aside the almost unimaginable spectacle of parents taking, even training, their children to die for their ideology, the recent attacks in Surabaya raise the issue of conflict between religious communities.

While few Muslims identify with these terrorists, it may nevertheless leave the impression that it is simply the exacerbation of an essential enmity between Christians and Muslims.

Such a thesis would accord with Samuel Huntington’s well-known “Clash of Civilisations” argument, which posited that civilisational boundaries, often marked by religious identities, would define the coming world order.

To exemplify this type of thesis, especially that conflict between religions is prevalent, one may look beyond events in Indonesia, which play into a wider militant neo-jihadi assault on Christianity, to clashes between: Jews and Muslims in Israel-Palestine; Buddhists and Muslims in Thailand, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka; Hindus and Christians and Muslims in India; or, many other examples including intra-religious violence, for instance between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

The list of events where we see violence across inter-religious lines in both contemporary and global history seems almost endless.

However, history suggests that this may not be the whole story, indeed peaceful and positive inter-religious relations may be the norm rather than the exception.

The well-known Constitution of Medina alongside the agreement from Prophet Muhammad with the monks of St Catherine’s Monastery are signs that peaceful and harmonious inter-religious relations were endorsed by the founder of Islam.

His battles were not fought against other religions, but against those who had attacked and oppressed the young Islamic community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TODAY (INDONESIA)

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Syrian Christians and Muslims: from common wounds a future of peace

SIRIA_-_testimonianza_caritas_rifugiatiokDamascus (AsiaNews) – A lunch bringing together Christians and Muslims became an opportunity to share experiences of war, suffering, divisions and also to discover that despite differences in faith, no family was spared by the conflict.  It also became an opportunity to  discover that the same families can start a journey of reconstruction capable of building bridges on the ruins and achieving a peace that comes from the depths of hearts. This is what emerges from the testimony given to AsiaNews by Sandra Awad, head of Communications for Caritas Syria, 40, married and mother of two children, in the context of the “Share the Journey” initiative launched by Caritas Internationalis. A challenge for a country now in its eighth year of war, but which never ceases to hope for a “reconciliation” that knows how to “embrace the whole country”.

Here, below, the testimony she shared with AsiaNews:

When we received an e-mail notifying us about the topic of the new campaign held by Caritas Internationalis and other NGOs “Share the Journey”, which encourage local communities to receive and welcome refugees and help them integrate in the new society, we felt confused. How can we adopt this campaign in Syria? Which part of the society could be considered to be the host? And which part could be considered to be the new arrivals? Inside Syria, we don’t have refugees. Although the majority of people has become displaced, we are all one aching society who suffered from a long war, which did not exclude any family from its bad impact…

We felt that this campaign is not convenient for the Syrians inside Syria, therefore, we didn’t do a big effort to participate in it, till the day we received an e-mail from Caritas Internationalis inviting us to share a meal with refugees, as part of this campaign.

We finally decided to participate in this action and organize a meal with some displaced people from our beneficiaries from different religions. We started to plan for this event to have place on June 23, in the hall of the Orthodox Cross Church. Beside beneficiaries, we invited also many bishops and priest of the Catholic church.

We had a lot of worries about this gathering. What the reaction of the Catholic bishops would be when we invite them to an Orthodox Church? How would invited beneficiaries interact with each other during this event? They are a mixture of the Syrian society, Muslims, Christians, Alawite, Druze… We are a country which has been suffering from war for almost eight years, distance and separation between people has become wide, we are divided now, the east and the west, the city and the country side, the ones who left the country and those who stayed in it. Everyone is aching, and the hearts are filled with hatred and pain.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS. IT 

An anti-Muslim narrative has shaped policy for decades. The travel ban will make it worse.

no ban 1The Supreme Court of the United States yesterday upheld President Donald Trump’s decision to institute a ban on immigrants, refugees, and visa holders from five majority-Muslim countries yesterday in a 5-4 decision.

The ruling did not come as a surprise to me.

I’m a lawyer, educator, and Muslim woman who focuses on racial justice. My work is all about interrupting the process of dehumanization that leads to crimes against humanity on marginalized groups. I’m devastated about the Supreme Court’s decision, but we saw this coming.

I often hear good-hearted people say that certain incidents are “un-American” or don’t represent “their America.” But suggesting this ban is unique erases our nation’s ugly history of anti-Muslim sentiment, one that sits within a larger picture of systematic racism against many other groups.

The “travel ban” — a term that sanitizes what is in fact a Muslim ban — is the latest in a series of policies that have targeted Muslims inaccurately seen as agents, or agents-in-waiting, of a dangerous foreign “ideology” that needs to be eradicated. These anti-Muslim narratives are sponsored by a million-dollar industry, pushing rhetoric like the takeover of “sharia law” in America through “think tanks” like the Center for Security Policy that provide fodder for conservative commentators like Newt Gingrich.

Islamophobia is not simply interpersonal hatred or fear. It is a system of bigotry that identifies and targets those who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim, no matter what their race or country of national origin.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOX 

 

King of Jordan wins Templeton Prize for fostering Muslim cooperation

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(RNS) — King Abdullah II of Jordan has won the 2018 Templeton Prize for promoting dialogue and cooperation between Muslims of differing traditions.

Abdullah, king of Jordan since 1999, “has led a reclamation of Islam’s moderate theological narrative from the distortions of radicalism,” the John Templeton Foundation said Wednesday (June 27). The annual prize honors “a person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works,” the foundation said in a statement.

Among Abdullah’s contributions to religious understanding is his 2004 “Amman Message,” which “articulated a clear understanding of the central elements of Islam, and affirmed that terrorism and violence have no place in the religion,” said the foundation.

That message, developed when the Iraq War worsened relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, was expanded the next year when the king invited 200 Islamic scholars from 50 countries to Jordan. From those consultations emerged “Three Points of the Amman Message,” which recognized the validity of all eight of Islam’s legal schools and explicitly forbade declarations of apostasy, the foundation said.

Abdullah has also been a strong supporter of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, in Amman. The institute, established by Abdullah’s father, King Hussein, promotes scholarship with the aim of fostering understanding and cooperation among Muslims.

RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Interreligious dialogue needed to combat terrorism

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Catholic bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger have called for better dialogue between Muslim and Christian communities in an effort to combat terrorism.

The bishops were in Rome May 20-28 for their ad limina visit, which Catholic bishops must make every five years to report to the pope on their respective dioceses and meet with Vatican officials.

The 21 bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger were welcomed by Pope Francis.

At the top of the list of their pastoral concerns they shared with the pope were security and interreligious dialogue.

“The Catholic Church is surrounded by Muslim populations, and in Burkina Faso, Muslims make up 60 percent of the population,” said Archbishop Paul Yemboaro Ouédraogo of Bobo-Dioulasso, president of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger.

This is why forging peaceful and cohesive relations is fundamental, he said after his audience with Pope Francis.

FULL ARTICLE FROM LA CROIX

Jew, Christian, Muslim: ‘See the Beloved everywhere’

jew christian muslimNothing in my uber-Catholic background (weekly Mass and confession, memorizing the Baltimore Catechism, strict nun teachers) could have prepared me to participate in a zikr at which Muslim, Jewish and Christian people chanted the name of God, while the imam sang a melodic line over the chant.

Some of the women draped in scarves swayed back and forth, we all felt held by the chanting, and I began to understand why it is a component of much of the world’s worship. The dictionary definition of zikr is a form of remembrance “associated chiefly with Sufism, when the worshiper is absorbed in the rhythmic repetition of God’s name or attributes.”

 

Much of the imam’s initial talk resonated with what I already believed. “See the Beloved everywhere,” he encouraged. “Be so crazily in love you’re like the besotted 13-year-old who, asked about ice cream, sighs, ‘My favorite flavor is chocolate.’ ”

His words about God’s spark within being the source of human dignity touched a familiar chord — as a Catholic, I’d heard that message, named Divine indwelling, often. Muhammad said, “Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.” In the Jewish kabbalah or mystical teaching, God hurled forth the holy in countless sparks at the beginning of time; it whispers to us from all created people and things. When we descend to the deepest underground stream, all religions echo similar truths.

I’ve learned this firsthand from my interfaith group of five Muslim, five Jewish and five Christian women who meet monthly, taking turns in their homes.

A typical gathering starts with a potluck of snacks and informal conversation. Then after prayer, a facilitator (a rotating role) lays groundwork for the theme of the evening. We’ve discussed threads common to all traditions, like various religious holidays, the importance of pilgrimages, communal and individual prayer, action for justice, and environmental protection. There’s strong consensus that we must, in whatever small ways we can, offset the current government’s antipathy to Islam and hostility to refugees. After both January Women’s Marches, we shared our experiences and chortled at our favorite signs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Does the Supreme Court have a double standard on religion?

180626170958-travel-ban-trump-then-and-now-orig-nws-00002328-exlarge-169(CNN)Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, saying a state commission’s ruling against him was rooted in anti-religious hostility.

On Tuesday, in upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, five Supreme Court justices ruled that his critical statements about Islam and Muslims, both as a candidate and as chief executive, don’t matter.

Outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, protesters and members of Congress accused the justices of adopting a double standard: one set of rules for white Christians and another for Muslims and other religious minorities.
“It’s an obvious contradiction,” said Rep. André Carson of Indiana, a Democrat who’s one of two Muslims in Congress. “It’s absolutely apparent that there is a double standard.”
In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the high court’s decision on Trump’s travel ban sends precisely that message.
“Unlike in Masterpiece, where the majority considered the state commissioners’ statements about religion to be persuasive evidence of unconstitutional government action,” Sotomayor wrote, referring to the Christian baker’s shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, “the majority here completely sets aside the President’s charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant.”
“That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country that they are outsiders, ‘not full members of the political community,’ ” Sotomayor added.
In the Masterpiece case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision, said members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility” toward the religious beliefs of Jack Phillips, the baker.