In God’s Name: Religion, violence and the path to Peace
By Peniel Jesudason Rufus
We seem to live in a context where “there seems to be enough religion to make us hate one another but not enough religion to make us love one another,” to use the words of Mark Twain.
One of the dangers of religious violence today is the enlisting of God as an ally in violence. This on the one hand empowers the perpetrator and on the other elicits a dangerous complicity through silence by a passive majority.
In this context the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks assume a poignant relevance: when religion turns men into murderers, God weeps and says “not in my name”. In a time as this, where it is increasingly affirmed that religions which are often considered part of the problem need also to be part of the solution, the challenge for religions is to reinvent themselves as instruments of peace.
Three values are integral to this transformation of religion as a pathway for peace, namely honesty, hospitality and humility.
There is need for honesty to acknowledge that religions have at their heart problematic scriptural texts –‘texts of terror’, which can condone violence against the ‘other’, and work towards critical scriptural reinterpretation as a way towards peace.
This approach of honesty should be complemented by hospitality which moves beyond the idea of tolerance, which often perceives the religious other as an unavoidable inconvenience which cannot be eliminated. The spirit of honesty and hospitality needs to be completed by a spirit of humility, which is constantly attentive to the dynamics of power at play even in projects of interreligious collaboration and makes sure that the table of interreligious dialogue and cooperation is one in which there is equal space for the sharing of gifts of all.
In this way religious communities can reinvent religions not as fortresses to be defended but as wellsprings for the flourishing of all life.