In the name of God I will murder, conquer, and oppress. This brief phrase summarizes centuries of exploitation and misinterpretation of religious values by oppressors and dictators. A practice that continues to exist in almost every conflict taking place today, regardless of globalization, the spread of education, and the mainstreaming of the international human rights agenda. Some have come to the conclusion that God is the problem in all this equation; if everyone is killing in the name of God, then let’s erase God from the minds of people and society as a way of avoiding violent conflicts.
In order to achieve world peace, we first have to analyze the nature of conflict and people. People, by their nature, are always struggling with themselves and their environment, a point that Charles Malik, the Lebanese diplomat and philosopher, constantly mentions in his writings. Constant struggles among people means that conflict will always exist, the question is how are we resolving these conflicts. Do religions have a positive or negative role to play in the resolution process?
Let us not bury our heads in the sand, religions have played a major role in the bloodshed across the world and history. Religion is a powerful tool that drives the masses, but as any tool, it can be used for good or for bad. Its misuse can drive the masses to commit human sacrifices, genocide, crusades, and suicide bombings. However, when properly interpreted, it can also lead to good deeds including the positive influence of the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, along with Christian and Muslim charity organizations. If we delete religious and spiritual values from our cultures and societies we will end up with a very pale perspective on life. All religions and beliefs have something to contribute to our understanding of the human person. Religions should be a reason for people to come together and appreciate diversity rather than seek to homogenize humanity.
We, as Middle Eastern youth, should extract the lessons learned from previous failed experiences rather than simply run away from them without looking back. We need to agree on a common set of universal human values that respect the different cultures and traditions and that guide our decisions towards the improvement of our societies. We need to focus on the common ground between us rather than highlight the differences. Being jihadists or completely faithless has an equally detrimental impact on society, so let us create a place that respects the dignity of people without letting go of our roots, traditions, and beliefs.
No religion today worships a God of War, so let us not fight a war in his name.
By Cedric Choukeir, Regional Director of WYA Middle East.