Photo: Gabbi Menashe
Yuval Sherlo
Photo: Gabbi Menashe

Peace through religion?

Op-ed: Wars often blamed on religion, but 20th Century’s greatest killers were secular

At this time, religions are perceived as war mongers, rather than peacemakers. This notion is partly distorted, and men of letters as well as politicians cynically use it in order to hold religions accountable for violence, and partly genuine, as the Israeli-Arab conflict has religious dimensions and is stimulated by worldviews premised on religious law and spirituality.


This reality usually prompts two types of reactions: The first one is constant polemics and attacks against the various faiths, while claiming that the removal of faith from life would put an end to global wars. Yet notably, the 20th Century’s three greatest murderers - Mao Zedong, Stalin, and Hitler (who murdered roughly 50 million people each) - were not religious at all.


The second reaction is the initiation of interfaith dialogue dealing with questions of tolerance and mutual recognition. At this time, such dialogue groups are even supported by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, which sends its representatives to attend such sessions.


Yet there may be another way: Rather than talking about tolerance, we can try to create cooperation, through joint work on various issues. At times, the very cooperation in tackling joint problems turns the interfaith struggle into a means for minimizing gaps and making peace. This argument has been made for many years now by my friend, Rabbi Menachem Froman, and this voice must be heard.


In this framework, the Jerusalem Center for Ethics decided to initiate joint interfaith ethics-based activities, via an annual conference and ongoing work throughout the year. This effort is meant to achieve two goals: The first one is the promotion of morality and ethics in our public life; the second one is the creation of cooperation on these issues.


Regardless of the negotiations between us and our enemies, it is of the utmost importance that religions be the ones promoting goodness in the world and demanding that human beings be more moral. Of course, being religious does not at all guarantee a person’s morality, which is something Israel’s prophets were adamant about over the generations.


The annual ethics conference to be held Thursday will deal with the ethics of pilgrimage. It will present the various faiths’ attitude to various types of pilgrimage, and focus on promoting the ethical principles of such pilgrimages, such as: Inclusion and exclusion, prevention of exploitation and commercialism, and relevant “green” ethics. Dealing with such issues may perhaps lead to reduction of interfaith tensions, so that we can take the right path of charity and justice.


Rabbi Yuval Sherlo heads the hesder yeshiva in Petach Tivka and is in charge of the ethics and religions field at the Jerusalem Center for Ethics




פרסום ראשון: 10.21.10, 00:08
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