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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RELIGION – WAR OR PEACE?

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: "The truth is that killing innocent people is
always wrong – and no argument or excuse, no matter how deeply
believed, can ever make it right. No religion on earth condones the
killing of innocent people, no faith tradition tolerates the random
killing of our brothers and sisters on this earth… Islamic law is
clearly against terrorism, against any kind of deliberate killing of
civilians or similar 'collateral damage.' "

"All this seriously offends God and seriously offends humanity," the
pontiff declared. "You cannot bring hatred in the name of God. You
cannot make war in the name of God!" – Pope Francis

People often say that religion is the cause of war. This simplistic
view of history perpetuated by media usually presents this as truism.
But it only skims the surface and refuses to look into the depths.
Yes, there have been many throughout history and in today's headlines
who carry banners of war in the "name of God". However religion is not
the source but rather the shield one fights behind.

What then ignites the hatred so strong that armies can butcher fellow
human beings? Name the battle, the war, the army that fights falsely
in the "name of God" and you will find an oppressed minority. You will
find a group in society that have been so marginalized, so mistreated,
so abused that they lose any faith in humanity. They have learned to
think of respect as inspiring fear rather than character. They regress
to their tribal pride which has been the label under which they have
been oppressed. This tribe always has a religion, but it is always a
subset of their faith and an aberration of that religion's true
beliefs.

Hatred ignites hatred. Injustice and oppression are the tools of hate.
The KKK is no more a Christian group than ISIS is a representative of
Islam. The so called "Christian" defenders of life who bomb abortion
clinics or kill doctors while attending their own church are repulsive
to any true professing Christian. Those honoring the true dictates of
Christianity or any mainstream religion never advocate killing under
any circumstance. Yet in all these examples and plenty more, religion
is their banner. Hatred is brewed in dishonor, loss of dignity or a
diminished self-worth.

The more intense the oppression or lack of respect, the greater and
more intense the battle to recover some dignity by standing for a
cause greater than oneself. They then wrap themselves in a banner or
flag of religion that belies the very principals of any given
religion.

Therefore we imperil ourselves and our society and even our world when
we easily dismiss people or diminish any group of people. The path to
peace is extremely difficult and costly. It is a journey to the depths
of each person's soul to affirm our common humanity, to find our
dignity not rooted in the opinion of others or in our ability to
succeed but rather rooted in God, however we understand God. It is
difficult because it is counter-intuitive. When struck, strike. But
peace, like Gandhi, Christ, Mohammed, and more recently Malala
Yousafzai shot by Taliban gunmen for attending school absorb the
vicious attacks and stand with dignity and pride to resist repression
and violence. They pursue the long road to justice in the true sense
of religion. It is costly because it demands we give up our instinct
and pursue a path that may mean further indignity and abuse. Nelson
Mandela comes to mind as an example of this truth. This is what
strengthens the soul and ignites hope in others.

Religion is what forged these men into saints, heroes. These are the
men and women who reshaped the path of history out of violence into
civil society.

Let us be careful of accepting what is presented as a religious shield
or the banner of faith for what is actually a thirst for power,
control and/or greed. The heart twisted and mutilated by violence and
hatred will take up the banner of religion in order to appear
acceptable. True religion can raise one from the ashes of destruction
to be an instrument of peace and reconciliation forging a path to
justice. Prayer forged in the dark recesses of the soul gives light
for others to see and hope for all to hold.

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