Understanding Religion and Conflict
10 Sep 2014
Professor Miroslav Volf of Yale University says that perceptions of religion, once identified with politics, inevitably end up being an instrument in conflict, but globalisation and faith traditions and how they relate to each other are powerful forces shaping the world today.
Very often religion, especially when it is associated with a certain nation, with a certain political project and associated very tightly, it tends to then be used for the purposes of generating conflict. Almost no matter what the precepts of religion are, once religion is identified with politics, it almost inevitably ends up being an instrument in conflict when conflicts are brewing and about to happen.
When religion aligns itself with the state the problems of religions and violence begin
I think that the main challenge of religion and conflict in a globalised world is for religions to realise or to almost turn back to their own original resources. Most of the religions that are in conflict are so called "World Faiths". But for World Faiths it is essential that they are addressed to an individual, that they are addressed to an individual in a way that stands over and against all other cultural or state entities and that they claim ultimate allegiance of that person. At the beginning I mentioned when religion aligns itself with the state and becomes almost identical with the state the problems of religions and violence begin. Once religion sees itself as a distinct separate system from the state, the possibilities of peaceful co-existence emerge and I think in situations of conflict religions have to go back to their origins.
If religions understand themselves as making a contribution to common life and also if secular governments or secularists themselves understand themselves in a similar way, then each of them can contribute and each of them is an equal party in the debates about the future of a state. I think what we need is democracy friendly religions and religion friendly democracies. Not strictly secular democracy in a sense that they are committed to secular projects, to separation of church and state yes, but they are faith friendly rather than dismissing faith, and faiths at the same time are democracy, pluralistic democracy, friendly. If we get that mutual understanding between the two I think we will have a great future before us.
The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
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