From Sarajevo comes a no to violence done in the name of God, and lessons from the martyrs
Sarajevo (AsiaNews) - No radical conclusions came from the Oasis international meeting in Sarajevo on "The temptation of violence. Religions between war and reconciliation," except those by Card George Alencherry, major archbishop of Ernakulam of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Given his experience in India, where Hindu fundamentalism threatens Muslims and Christians, the latter emphasised and repeated several times that "dialogue is the only way" and that Catholics, backed by the teachings of Vatican II, must be the first to undertake it, building a contest and a platform from which to start.
An example of this came from Card Vinko Puljic who gave a moving testimony of the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995), when, despite the bombs, he continued to meet Islamic, Jewish and Christian Orthodox leaders; helped people who needed food, water and shelter, whatever their religion; and called on other religious leaders to take the lead in providing the world with real information on the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"Blame was laid on religious differences, saying that they were politically responsible for the conflict," he said, rather than blaming politicians, exclusivist nationalism and regional and international alliances and arms merchants. During the war in Bosnia, new weapons with depleted uranium were used that are cause of cancer today," and "Mass media exploited war's inherent hatred," he added.
The conference also addressed the role of the media because it was obvious to everyone that media coverage is often too superficial and shallow, with tensions seen as inter-religious wars.
Nigeria is a case in point. Mgr Matthew Kukah, bishop of Sokoto, noted that Boko Haram's fundamentalism is set against the country's "Christian" government, underestimating the role played by the policies of the central government, its inability to provide security, and that of regional governors (in northern Nigeria) who, although Muslim, prefer to enrich themselves instead of providing services and goods to the population.
Egyptian priests present at the conference also noted media "mistakes" in the way the latter covered Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi and his term in office, described as "democratic" in contrast to former general al-Sisi who has been described as a "dictator" even though the security and rights of Christians and Muslims reached their lowest point under the former.
Prof Ramin Jahanbegloo (seen on the right, next to Card Vinko Puljic), an associate professor at York University (Canada), broke the typical association between Islam and bloodthirsty fanatic. In his address, he highlighted a tradition of non-violent Muslim scholars, linked to the mystical experience of Sufism, which he illustrated by focusing on Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Azad, two associates of Mahatma Gandhi.
According Jahanbegloo, their teaching was very much present in Iran's Green Wave demonstrations, which broke out in 2009 following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president. Although now underground, the non-violent movement was silenced through arrests and deadly force.
The fact remains that too much violence in the world today is justified in terms of religious affiliation, this despite the fact that appeals by John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis against violence "in the name of God" are finding more and more space among Muslim authorities.
Fr Javer Prades, dean of San Damaso Theological University in Madrid, presented an illuminating conference. Commenting on the document by the International Theological Commission on God the Trinity and the unity of humanity. Christian Monotheism and its opposition to violence, he said that there is a dastardly attempt to show that religions (monotheism in particular) are the cause of all violence in the world, driving states to marginalise religious communities as "social pathologies."
The rejection of violence, which is part of the Christian mission, is a "kairos for everyone," an important and urgent appeal for world society. Martyrs, who chose to be killed rather than respond the offence, are examples to society of fruitful non-violence.
He noted that Tibhirine, in Algeria, the place where Cistercian monks were martyred, has become a site of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims.
Lest we forget, increasingly in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere, where Muslims have carried out acts of violence against Christians, more and more Muslims are raising their voice in defence of Christians and condemning the actions of their co-religionists.