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Tackle myth that religions lead to global conflicts

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 March, 2015

Bishop of Limerick tells Three Faiths Forum that religion has "a very valuable role to play in the transformation of conflict".

Bishop of Limerick DioceseThe Bishop of Limerick has appealed to faith leaders to tackle the myth that religions lead to global conflicts.

In an address to members of the Three Faiths Forum at the Mansion House in Dublin on Wednesday evening, Bishop Brendan Leahy urged Christians, Muslims and Jews “to stand side by side in showing how religion can provide a lead in resolving conflict”.

The event was titled ‘Religions and Global Conflict’ and in his address, Bishop Leahy acknowledged that religion has in some cases been “hijacked” by forces intent only on personal profit of one kind or another, but he added that religion is not the cause of conflicts.

“A superficial reading of religions and global conflict bring some to view religions as only a negative influence in our world. I know and acknowledge that there can be, what the American professor Scott Appleby describes as, the ‘ambivalence of the Sacred’,” he said.

Admitting that there are “deviant forms of religion”, he said that it does happen that religions find themselves taken up into conflict issues of identity, “in many cases hijacked by forces intent only on personal profit of one kind or another”.

“When aligned to various political currents that promote a logic of enmity, religions can become vehicles of mutual exclusion through the absolutizing of some of their texts or institutions,” he warned.

Bishop Leahy said that the 1986 Assisi meeting of religions for peace, which he attended, was an example of how various faiths can come together in the name of peace.

However, he warned against falling into the myth, often born out of a Western ideological stance, that religions are the sources of the conflicts of civilisation.

He said religions have “a very valuable role to play in the transformation of conflict” and he cited Alec Reid, Harold Good, Ken Newell, Edward Daly and Ruth Patterson as examples close to home.

These took on key leadership roles within their own communities in the way that leadership works best; “inspiring others entrenched in hatred and enmity to forgive and heal”.

The Bishop of Limerick also referred to Pope Francis’ concern over a third world war, “one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction…”

“This is happening, he said, because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms. But it also happening because there is a terrible globalisation of indifference to these causes of many of today’s conflict,” the Pontiff warned.

Religious communities, Dr Leahy said, need to commit themselves to highlighting fraternity in religious texts and traditions.

“There is much in each of our religions to do with love, respect, compassion and justice. Characteristics which are core to our religions and yet hardly characteristics that could be sources of conflict. They are also characteristics that give rise to healing and transformation,” he said.

“What I am proposing this evening is that religious leaders need to counter the myth that religions lead to global conflicts. We need to highlight how much our religions talk about fraternity. We need to stand side by side, spiritually and visibly in doing this.”

He concluded, “We also need to remind each other that the way of fraternity is not always easy. Religions teach the significance of perseverance in seeking peace. We need to know how to ‘forgive’ if we want to promote peace.”

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