Religious Perspectives on Pillars of Peace (Part 3)
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 10 Jul 2023
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From Antiquity to the 21st Century: Tracing the Evolution of Religious Contributions to Community and Global Peace
“The Diverse Religions on offer to Humanity are often apportioned the blame for Peace Disruption. However, every major Religion commences its greetings to fellow humanoids, by declaring Peace in their Respective vernacular”
8 Jul 2023 – This paper, the third part in the series on “Pillars of Peace” discusses the odyssey and religious doctrines of the major religions on their mission to promote peace, over the centuries of struggles, trials, inquisitions, tribulations, sufferings, brutality, persecution and even executions of millions of civilians, clerics, as well as royalty. Even in the 21st century, the different religions, globally, are still endeavouring to promote peace using various strategies and formats.
We begin the peace odyssey in 1925, in present day South Africa which is considered the primary geographical origin of our species as humans. The emergence of anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens, is believed to have occurred around 300,000 to 200,000 years ago. This estimation is based on genetic and fossil evidence, including the study of ancient DNA, fossil discoveries, and comparative analysis with other hominin species.
The earliest known fossils classified as Homo sapiens are found in Africa, specifically in regions such as Ethiopia, Morocco, and South Africa. Fossils from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco have been dated to approximately 300,000 years old and represent early members of our species. The fossilised skull of the Taung Child, an important fossil of an early hominin, was discovered at the Taung site in the Sterkfontein region of South Africa. The Taung Child fossil, a skull of a young Australopithecus africanus individual, was found in 1924 by Raymond Arthur Dart, a South African anatomist and palaeontologist, an Australian by birth Dart recognised the significance of the fossil as a possible early human ancestor. He published his findings in 1925, describing the fossil as a new species called Australopithecus africanus.
The fossil’s importance and its classification as an early human ancestor were initially met with scepticism by the scientific community. However, over time, further discoveries and research confirmed the significance of the Taung Child and Australopithecus africanus in our understanding of human evolution.
The verification and acceptance of the Taung Child as a significant early hominin fossil came through subsequent research, analysis, and the accumulation of more evidence from other sites and specimens. The ongoing study of paleoanthropology and continued discoveries have further supported the understanding that Australopithecus africanus, represented by the Taung Child, is an important species in the human evolutionary lineage.
The discovery of the Taung Child and subsequent fossil finds in the Sterkfontein region have provided crucial insights into human evolution. These fossils, including those from sites such as Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai, have contributed to our understanding of early hominin species and their significance in the evolutionary timeline.
Australopithecus africanus, represented by the Taung Child, is considered an early hominin species that lived approximately 2.8 to 2.5 million years ago. It represents an individual of the species Australopithecus africanus, which lived during the early Pleistocene epoch. The age of the fossil has been determined through various dating methods, including the examination of the geological context of the site and the dating of associated sediments and volcanic layers. These dating techniques provide scientists with estimates of the fossil’s age and help to place it within the broader timeline of human evolution. This species is thought to be a close relative of the common ancestor of humans and other hominins. The emergence of anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens, is believed to have occurred around 300,000 to 200,000 years ago. This estimation is based on genetic and fossil evidence, including the study of ancient DNA, fossil discoveries, and comparative analysis with other hominin species. The earliest known fossils classified as Homo sapiens are found in Africa, specifically in regions such as Ethiopia, Morocco, and South Africa. Fossils from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco have been dated to approximately 300,000 years old and represent early members of our species.
The Taung Child fossil and other subsequent discoveries in the Sterkfontein region, by the Paleoanthropologist, Professor Lee Burger, have played a significant role in shaping our understanding of human origins and the importance of Africa as the evolutionary birthplace of our species, Homo sapiens. They provide evidence for the long history of human evolution on the African continent and the complex evolutionary transitions that led to the emergence of modern humans, as well as religions, propagating Peace as well as causing major peace disruption, by destroying the very foundation and pillars upholding the tenets of peace. While religious differences can be a contributing factor to peace disruptions in certain contexts, it is important to note that they are not the sole or main cause of peace disruption. Peace disruptions can arise from a combination of factors, as mentioned earlier. Religious differences can exacerbate tensions and conflicts when they intersect with other factors such as political, economic, or social grievances. Religious differences become more likely to contribute to peace disruptions when they are exploited for political purposes, when they intersect with other identity-based divisions, or when they are accompanied by discrimination, intolerance, or extremist ideologies. In such cases, religious differences can be manipulated to fuel conflict and violence. However, it is essential to recognize that religions themselves often advocate for peace, justice, and compassion. Many religious communities play active roles in promoting peaceful coexistence, interfaith dialogue, and reconciliation. Religious leaders and organisations can contribute significantly to peacebuilding efforts by emphasizing shared values, promoting understanding, and facilitating dialogue between different religious groups. Therefore, while religious differences can be a factor in peace disruptions, it is crucial to consider the broader context and the interplay of various social, political, and economic factors that contribute to conflicts. Addressing the root causes of peace disruptions requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond religious differences alone.
Considering the above scientific, as a prelude to the contributions to the philosophy of peace within humanity, it is appropriate to discuss the definition of Peace in a religious context. A comprehensive religious definition of peace that encompasses multiple religions can be summarized as follows:
Peace, from a religious perspective, is a state of harmony, wholeness, and well-being that extends to all aspects of life and relationships. It encompasses inner tranquility, interpersonal harmony, and the establishment of just and equitable societies. While specific religious traditions may have nuanced interpretations and practices, there are common themes that can be found across various religions:
- Inner Peace: Inner peace refers to a state of tranquillity and serenity within oneself. It involves finding spiritual and emotional balance, letting go of negative emotions, and cultivating a sense of contentment and acceptance. Inner peace is achieved through practices such as prayer, meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection.
- Harmony with the Divine: Peace involves establishing a harmonious relationship with the divine or ultimate reality. This entails surrendering to a higher power, seeking divine guidance, and aligning one’s life with the teachings and commandments of one’s religious tradition. It is through this connection with the divine that individuals find spiritual fulfilment and a sense of purpose.
- Interpersonal Peace: Interpersonal peace focuses on fostering harmonious relationships with others. It emphasizes love, compassion, forgiveness, and respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings. It involves treating others with kindness, seeking reconciliation, and promoting unity and cooperation among diverse individuals and communities.
- Justice and Equality: Peace is closely linked to principles of justice and equality. It involves working towards the elimination of oppression, discrimination, and social inequalities. It encompasses promoting fairness, protecting human rights, and ensuring equitable access to resources and opportunities for all individuals.
- Nonviolence and Non-aggression: Peace is rooted in the rejection of violence and aggression as means of resolving conflicts. It encourages peaceful dialogue, negotiation, and the pursuit of nonviolent solutions to disputes. It calls for the transformation of conflicts through peaceful means, fostering reconciliation and understanding.
- Environmental Stewardship: Peace extends to the natural world, emphasizing the responsibility of humans to care for and protect the environment. It involves practicing sustainable living, respecting the interconnectedness of all living beings, and preserving the balance and beauty of the Earth.
- Universal Brotherhood: Peace sthe interconnectedness and inherent worth of all people, transcending religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. It promotes the idea of universal brotherhood and the recognition that all individuals are part of a shared human family. It calls for embracing diversity, celebrating cultural richness, and promoting cooperation and mutual understanding.
While the specific practices and rituals may vary, the religious definition of peace across different traditions shares a common goal: to cultivate inner peace, promote harmonious relationships, seek justice, and foster unity among individuals and communities. By embracing these principles, individuals can contribute to the establishment of a peaceful world based on compassion, justice, and respect for all.
An extremely general overview of the contributions of monotheistic and polytheistic religions regarding peace for humanity, is presented below.
Monotheistic Religions and Peace: Monotheistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, emphasise the belief in a single, supreme deity. Here are some of their contributions to peace:
- Judaism: The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, includes teachings on peace and justice. For example, the concept of “shalom” is central in Judaism, representing not only the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony, wholeness, and well-being. The Hebrew prophets often spoke of a future era of peace when nations would cease warfare and live together in harmony.
- Christianity: The teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament emphasize peace, love, and forgiveness. The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount encourage peace-making, and Jesus’ commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself” is seen as a guiding principle for peaceful coexistence. Christian scriptures also highlight the importance of reconciliation and promoting unity among believers.
- Islam: The Quran, the central religious text of Islam, encourages peace and justice. It teaches Muslims to strive for peace, resolve conflicts peacefully, and promote compassion and mercy. The concept of “jihad” in Islam is often misunderstood but refers to a personal struggle against one’s inner vices rather than promoting violence. Islamic teachings also emphasize the importance of justice and fairness in creating a peaceful society.
- Polytheistic Religions and Peace: Polytheistic religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek and Roman religions, involve the worship of multiple deities. While their perspectives on peace may differ, here are some general contributions:
- Hinduism: Hindu scriptures, such as the Vedas and Upanishads, emphasize the pursuit of peace and harmony. The concept of “Ahimsa,” or non-violence, is significant in Hinduism and extends to all living beings. Hindu religious texts also promote tolerance, compassion, and respect for all creatures, fostering an attitude of peace and coexistence.
- Buddhism: Buddhism places great importance on peace and non-violence. The teachings of Gautama Buddha emphasize the cessation of suffering and the cultivation of compassion. The Noble Eightfold Path, a central aspect of Buddhist teachings, includes Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood, all of which encourage non-violence and peaceful behaviour.
- Ancient Greek and Roman Religions: In ancient polytheistic religions, peace was often associated with the will of the gods and goddesses. Rituals and prayers were performed to seek divine favour and blessings, including peace and harmony within society. Temples dedicated to peace deities, such as Pax in Roman mythology, were built to honour and promote peaceful coexistence.
It is necessary to recognise that these religions have diverse interpretations and practices within them, and individuals and communities may prioritise different aspects of their respective scriptures and doctrines. Additionally, over time, the interpretations and emphasis on peace may have varied within different sects or historical periods.
Some key peace doctrines from various religious traditions, independent of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are:
- Ahimsa (non-violence): Jainism places utmost importance on non-violence towards all living beings. Jains strive to avoid causing harm to any form of life and promote compassion, forgiveness, and respect for all creatures.
- The Five Precepts: Buddhists adhere to the Five Precepts, which include refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and the consumption of intoxicants. These precepts promote ethical conduct and non-violence.
- Metta (loving-kindness): Buddhism emphasizes the cultivation of loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy towards all beings. Practicing Metta meditation aims to develop a peaceful and benevolent mindset.
- Sarbat da Bhala (welfare of all): Sikhism promotes the well-being and welfare of all individuals, regardless of their religion, caste, or background. Sikhs are encouraged to engage in selfless service, known as “Seva,” for the benefit of humanity.
- Bahá’í Faith:
- Unity and oneness of humanity: The Bahá’í Faith teaches the fundamental unity of all people and the importance of working towards global peace and harmony. Its principles include the elimination of prejudice, equality between men and women, and the establishment of a just and peaceful world order.
- Wu Wei (non-action): Taoism emphasizes the concept of Wu Wei, which means effortless action or non-action. It encourages individuals to live in harmony with the natural flow of life, avoiding unnecessary conflict and promoting peace and balance.
- Ren (benevolence): Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtues, including benevolence or compassion. Practicing Ren involves treating others with kindness, respect, and empathy, contributing to peaceful relationships and social harmony.
- Indigenous Religions:
- Harmony with nature: Many indigenous religions emphasize the interconnectedness of humans with nature and promote a harmonious relationship with the environment. They often include rituals and practices that honour and protect the natural world.
- African Traditional Religions encompass a diverse range of spiritual beliefs and practices across the African continent. While it is challenging to provide an exhaustive overview of all the contributions to peace by African Traditional Religions due to their localized and diverse nature, there are certain common themes and values that promote peace within these belief systems. Here are some general contributions:
- Harmony with Nature: African Traditional Religions often emphasize the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world. They recognize the importance of living in harmony with nature and maintaining a balanced relationship with the environment. This ecological consciousness encourages sustainable practices and fosters a sense of peace with the natural world.
- Community Cohesion: African Traditional Religions place a strong emphasis on communal values and social harmony. They promote cooperation, mutual support, and collective responsibility within the community. Rituals, ceremonies, and communal gatherings provide opportunities for people to come together, resolve conflicts, and strengthen social bonds.
- Ancestral Reverence: Ancestors hold a significant place in African Traditional Religions. Honouring and respecting ancestors is believed to bring blessings, protection, and wisdom to the community. This reverence for ancestors fosters a sense of continuity, identity, and unity within the community, promoting peace and stability.
- Spiritual Healing and Mediation: African Traditional Religions often involve rituals and practices aimed at spiritual healing, reconciliation, and conflict resolution. Rituals may include prayer, meditation, divination, and the involvement of spiritual leaders or healers who serve as mediators and facilitators of peace-building processes.
- Ethical and Moral Values: African Traditional Religions generally espouse ethical principles and moral values that promote peace and justice. These include concepts such as respect for elders, hospitality, honesty, fairness, and communal solidarity. Adhering to these values contributes to the well-being of individuals and the overall harmony of the community.
The peace-promoting aspects of African Traditional Religions are intertwined with cultural and regional practices, and their expressions vary across different African societies. Moreover, the impacts of colonization, globalisation, and the influence of other religious traditions have also influenced the practice and understanding of African Traditional Religions.
The above are a few examples of peace doctrines from various religious traditions. Each religion may have additional teachings and practices that contribute to the pursuit of peace and harmony. It’s important to recognize that the interpretations and emphasis on peace may vary within different sects or cultural contexts of these traditions.
An expansion on the peace doctrines and what the scriptures state in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are discussed below :
- Shalom (Peace): In Judaism, the concept of “shalom” represents more than the absence of conflict; it encompasses the presence of wholeness, well-being, and harmony. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) includes several teachings on peace, such as:
- Isaiah 2:4: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
- Psalm 34:14: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
- Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World): Judaism emphasizes the responsibility to engage in acts of social justice and repair the world. This includes promoting peace, pursuing righteousness, and caring for the vulnerable. The concept is derived from texts like:
- Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
- The Beatitudes: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents the Beatitudes, which include teachings on peace and blessings for peacemakers. Key verses include:
- Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
- Love and Forgiveness: Central to Christian teaching is the commandment to love one’s neighbour and even enemies. Christians are encouraged to forgive and seek reconciliation, as stated in passages such as:
- Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
- Unity and Reconciliation: Christian scriptures stress the importance of unity and reconciliation among believers. Verses that highlight this include:
- Ephesians 4:3: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:18: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
- Peace and Justice in the Quran: The Quran promotes peace, justice, and mercy as essential values for Muslims. Verses emphasizing peace include:
- Quran 2:208: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers.”
- Quran 49:13: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
- Resolution of Conflicts: Islamic teachings encourage peaceful resolution of conflicts and forbids aggression. Verses that highlight this include:
- Quran 8:61: “But if the enemy inclines toward peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.”
- Quran 49:9: “And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”
Contrary to the Peace Disruption by Israel over the past 75 years, as a state espousing to follow the teachings of the original Torah, the foundational religious text of Judaism. This holy scripture, contains various teachings and principles that promote peace and harmony among the Hebrew people. Here are some of the main points related to peace as enunciated in the Torah:
- Pursuit of Justice and Righteousness: The Torah emphasizes the importance of justice and righteousness in creating a peaceful society. It instructs individuals to treat others fairly and equitably, without showing favoritism or oppressing the vulnerable.
- Ethical Conduct: The Torah provides guidelines for ethical behaviour and moral conduct. It includes commandments that promote honesty, integrity, and compassion, fostering peaceful relationships among individuals and communities.
- Love for One’s Neighbour: The Torah commands individuals to love their neighbours as themselves. This principle promotes empathy, compassion, and respect for others, laying the foundation for peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
- Conflict Resolution: The Torah provides guidance on resolving conflicts peacefully and justly. It encourages individuals to seek reconciliation and make amends, promoting peaceful resolutions rather than resorting to violence or revenge.
- Prohibition of Violence and Oppression: The Torah forbids acts of violence, oppression, and the shedding of innocent blood. It emphasizes the sanctity of human life and the inherent value of every individual, creating a framework that discourages aggression and promotes peaceful interactions.
- Sabbath and Rest: The observance of the Sabbath, as commanded in the Torah, promotes rest, rejuvenation, and the restoration of social bonds. The Sabbath serves as a weekly reminder to prioritize peace, well-being, and community.
- Shalom as a Central Value: The Hebrew term “shalom” is deeply embedded in the Torah and represents more than the absence of conflict. It encompasses a state of holistic well-being, harmony, and wholeness in individual lives and society at large.
These principles and teachings from the Torah provide a moral and ethical framework that guides individuals toward peaceful and harmonious living. They emphasize the importance of justice, compassion, and respect for others, promoting a vision of peace that extends beyond the absence of conflict to the presence of righteousness and communal well-being.
While each monotheistic religion has its unique teachings and scriptures, there are commonalities in their religious expounding of peace. These common principles can be considered the religious pillars of the peace doctrine. The key commonalities are:
- Love and Compassion: All three religions emphasize the importance of love and compassion as foundational principles for peaceful coexistence. The scriptures call upon followers to love their neighbours, show kindness to others, and extend mercy and compassion to all.
- Justice and Fairness: The concept of justice and fairness is central to the peace doctrines of these religions. The scriptures promote the idea of treating others justly, upholding the rights of the oppressed, and seeking justice for all individuals, regardless of their background.
- Nonviolence and Non-aggression: Monotheistic religions advocate for nonviolence and non-aggression as a means to promote peace. The scriptures discourage acts of violence, promote peaceful resolutions to conflicts, and encourage followers to live in harmony with others.
- Reconciliation and Forgiveness: The importance of reconciliation and forgiveness is highlighted in the religious teachings. The scriptures emphasize the need to reconcile with others, seek forgiveness, and extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us. This fosters healing, restoration, and peaceful relationships.
- Unity and Brotherhood: Monotheistic religions stress the unity and brotherhood of all humanity. The scriptures teach that all people are created by the same divine source and are therefore connected to one another. This understanding encourages followers to treat others with respect and dignity, regardless of their differences.
- Harmony with Creation: The peace doctrines also emphasize the responsibility of humans to care for and live in harmony with the natural world. The scriptures promote environmental stewardship, respect for nature, and the preservation of ecological balance.
- Prayer and Spiritual Reflection: Prayer and spiritual reflection are emphasized as means to cultivate inner peace and connect with the divine. The scriptures encourage individuals to engage in personal reflection, seek spiritual growth, and pray for peace in their communities and the world.
These common principles form the religious pillars of the peace doctrines in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While the specific details and interpretations may differ among the various religious traditions, the shared focus on love, justice, nonviolence, reconciliation, unity, and spiritual reflection provides a solid foundation for promoting peace within and between communities.
Religions, both monotheistic and polytheistic, often emphasize the value of peaceful interactions not only among humans but also with the entirety of the Divine Supreme’s creations. While the specific teachings and emphasis may vary, there are examples in various religious scriptures that highlight the importance of peaceful coexistence with all aspects of creation, including the smallest and largest of beings. Examples are:
- Judaism: In Jewish tradition, the concept of “tza’ar ba’alei chayim” emphasises compassion for animals and the avoidance of causing unnecessary harm or suffering. The Book of Proverbs states, “The righteous person knows the soul of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10), highlighting the responsibility to treat animals with care and respect.
- Christianity: The Christian scriptures encourage stewardship and care for the natural world. In the book of Genesis, humanity is given the responsibility to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28), which includes responsible dominion over the earth and its creatures. Additionally, the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19), suggesting a sense of interconnectedness and responsibility towards creation.
- Islam: Islamic teachings emphasize the importance of showing mercy and kindness towards all of creation. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God is kind to himself” (Sahih Bukhari). Islam also promotes the concept of “mizan” or balance in creation, highlighting the need to maintain the equilibrium and harmony of the natural world.
- Hinduism: Hindu scriptures emphasize the interconnectedness of all beings and advocate for non-violence (ahimsa) towards all creatures. The principle of ahimsa is highlighted in texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, where it is stated, “Non-violence, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquillity, aversion to fault-finding, compassion for all creatures, freedom from covetousness, gentleness, modesty, and steady determination” (Bhagavad Gita 16.2).
- Buddhism: Buddhism promotes compassion and non-harm towards all sentient beings. The first precept in Buddhism is to abstain from killing or causing harm to any living being. The Buddha taught, “Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings” (Metta Sutta).
These examples demonstrate that many religious traditions advocate for peaceful interactions and respect for all of God’s creations, whether small such as a viral particle or large, as a whale. The teachings highlight the interconnectedness and interdependence of all beings and call for a responsible and compassionate approach towards the natural world.
Noting that animal sacrifice, either for symbolic, ceremonial, or nutritional reasons, constitute peace disturbance within the animal creations of the Divine Supreme, several religions advocate for, or have movements within them that promote vegetarianism or the reduction of harm to animals through dietary choices. Here are some religions and movements that emphasize vegetarianism as a means of practicing peace towards the animal kingdom:
- Jainism: Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that places a strong emphasis on non-violence (ahimsa). Jains follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet as a way to avoid causing harm to any living beings. They believe in the inherent value of all life forms and strive to minimize their impact on the environment and the animal kingdom.
- Buddhism: While not all Buddhists are vegetarians, Buddhism teaches compassion and non-violence towards all sentient beings. Many Buddhists choose to follow vegetarian or vegan diets as a way to practice non-harming (ahimsa) and cultivate compassion for all living beings.
- Hinduism: Hinduism is a diverse religion with varied dietary practices. Some Hindus follow a vegetarian diet due to beliefs in non-violence (ahimsa) and respect for all forms of life. Certain Hindu sects, such as the followers of Vaishnavism, advocate vegetarianism as a way to honour the sanctity of life.
- Hare Krishna Movement (ISKCON): The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna movement, promotes vegetarianism as an integral part of its philosophy. Followers adhere to a lacto-vegetarian diet, avoiding meat, fish, and eggs, as they believe it aligns with the principle of non-violence and promotes spiritual advancement.
- Seventh-day Adventist Church: The Seventh-day Adventist Church encourages a vegetarian or plant-based diet as a reflection of their belief in holistic health and well-being. Many Adventists choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, considering it a part of their commitment to a healthy, compassionate, and sustainable way of living.
- Sikhism: Sikhism does not have strict dietary restrictions, but many Sikhs choose to follow a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian diet as a way to promote compassion and respect for all life. Sikh teachings emphasize the importance of living in harmony with nature and valuing the interconnectedness of all creation.
While these religions and movements advocate vegetarianism as a means of practicing peace towards the animal kingdom, not all adherents within these traditions follow a vegetarian diet. Dietary choices can vary among individuals based on personal beliefs, cultural practices, and regional influences.
While the majority of religious leaders and ministers are committed to propagating peace, it is important to acknowledge that there can be individuals or groups within any religious community who may propagate dissension or advocate inter-communal violence. This can occur for various reasons, including political motivations, ideological differences, personal biases, or misinterpretation of religious teachings.
- Political motivations: In some instances, religious leaders may align themselves with certain political ideologies or parties, leading them to use their religious influence to further political agendas. This can result in the manipulation of religious narratives to incite division or violence among communities.
- Ideological differences: Within any religious community, there can be differing interpretations of religious texts and teachings. These differences can lead to divisions and conflicts, especially when individuals or groups become rigid in their beliefs and are unwilling to engage in open dialogue or consider alternative perspectives.
- Personal biases: Like any other individuals, religious leaders can also be influenced by personal biases or prejudices, which may cloud their judgment and lead them to propagate messages that incite hostility or violence towards other communities.
- Misinterpretation of religious teachings: Misinterpretation or misrepresentation of religious teachings can occur, leading to the distortion of peaceful messages into ones that promote hostility or violence. In some cases, religious texts or scriptures may be taken out of context or selectively interpreted to support particular agendas.
It is necessary to highlight that the actions and statements of a few individuals or groups do not represent the entire religious community. Many religious leaders actively promote peace, interfaith dialogue, and understanding among different communities. Interfaith initiatives, peace conferences, and collaborative efforts are undertaken by religious leaders around the world to foster harmony and bridge divides. To address the issue of religious leaders spreading dissension or advocating violence, it is essential to encourage open dialogue, promote education and awareness about different religious traditions, and emphasize the shared values of compassion, tolerance, and respect for human dignity that exist within religious teachings. Engaging in interfaith dialogue and promoting peaceful coexistence are vital steps toward countering such negative influences and fostering a culture of peace and harmony
Achieving peace through religious strategies is a complex and multifaceted endeavour. While religion has the potential to play a significant role in promoting peace, it is not the sole determinant of peace in society. The plausibility of achieving peace through religious strategies depends on various factors, including the interpretation of religious teachings, the actions of religious leaders, and the socio-political context in which religious communities operate.
- Positive Contributions of Religion: Religion can contribute to peace in several ways:
- Promoting values of compassion, forgiveness, justice, and love for humanity.
- Encouraging individuals to live harmoniously with others and resolve conflicts peacefully.
- Fostering a sense of community and belonging that can mitigate social divisions and promote solidarity.
- Engaging in interfaith dialogue and cooperation to bridge differences and build understanding.
- Challenges and Limitations: However, there are challenges and limitations to achieving peace through religious strategies:
- Diverse Interpretations: Different religious traditions have diverse interpretations of sacred texts, which can lead to conflicting understandings and contribute to interfaith tensions.
- Political Exploitation: Religion can be politicized, leading to the manipulation of religious narratives for personal or political gain, which can exacerbate divisions and conflicts.
- Sectarianism and Extremism: Within religious communities, extremist ideologies or sectarian conflicts can emerge, undermining efforts for peace and fostering violence.
- Socio-Political Factors: Peace is influenced by socio-political factors such as economic disparities, political instability, and historical grievances, which religious strategies alone may not fully address.
- Role of Religious Leaders: Religious leaders have the potential to be influential agents for peace, as they can shape the beliefs and actions of their followers. Their role in promoting peace is crucial. However, it requires religious leaders to actively advocate for peace, denounce violence, and engage in interfaith dialogue. It also requires collaboration and cooperation among religious communities to work towards common goals.
- Holistic Approach: Achieving sustainable peace requires a holistic approach that includes religious strategies alongside political, social, and economic efforts. Interfaith dialogue, peace education, and the promotion of human rights are important components of a comprehensive approach to peace-building.
In conclusion, while religion can contribute positively to peace, achieving peace solely through religious strategies may not be plausible. It requires a broader framework that addresses the socio-political complexities, promotes interfaith understanding, and fosters cooperation among diverse religious communities. By combining religious values with other peace-building approaches, it is possible to create conditions for peaceful coexistence and dialogue among different religious traditions.
The question often raised is what is the transformative power of religions in promoting peaceful coexistence from Neanderthal religious practices through to Pharaonic religions, to the present tumultuous times:
- Neanderthal religious practices:
- Neanderthals likely had rudimentary spiritual beliefs and practices, which may have fostered a sense of community and cooperation among their groups.
- These early religious practices may have contributed to social cohesion and peaceful coexistence within Neanderthal communities.
- Ancient Mesopotamian religions:
- Religions such as Sumerian and Babylonian had complex pantheons and religious rituals.
- The belief in divine justice and the importance of maintaining harmonious relationships with deities and fellow humans encouraged peaceful interactions and social stability.
- Ancient Egyptian religion:
- The Pharaonic religions, with their emphasis on Ma’at (the principle of harmony and balance), promoted societal order, justice, and peaceful coexistence.
- The concept of divine kingship and the Pharaoh’s role as the embodiment of order and stability further reinforced peace within ancient Egyptian society.
- Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism):
- These religions promote principles such as ahimsa (non-violence) and compassion towards all living beings, which contribute to peaceful coexistence.
- The emphasis on self-control, mindfulness, and ethical conduct in these traditions fosters harmonious relationships and peaceful interactions.
- Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam):
- These religions share common principles of justice, compassion, and love for humanity, which form the basis for peaceful coexistence.
- Teachings such as the Golden Rule (treating others as you would like to be treated) promote empathy, respect, and peaceful interactions among individuals and communities.
- Eastern religions (Confucianism, Taoism):
- Confucianism emphasizes virtues such as benevolence, righteousness, and harmony, which contribute to peaceful coexistence and social order.
- Taoism encourages individuals to live in harmony with the natural order, cultivating inner peace and promoting peaceful interactions with others.
- Modern interfaith initiatives:
- In recent times, there has been a growing recognition of the need for interfaith dialogue and cooperation to foster peaceful coexistence.
- Interfaith initiatives promote understanding, bridge divides, and create spaces for mutual respect, leading to peaceful interactions among diverse religious communities.
Throughout history, religions have played a significant role in promoting peaceful coexistence by emphasizing values such as compassion, justice, harmony, and respect for others. While conflicts have occurred in the name of religion, it is important to recognize the transformative potential of religious teachings and practices in fostering peace and peaceful interactions among individuals, communities, and societies.
The Bottom Line is that, the general consensus among scientists is that the emergence of modern humans occurred within the last few hundred thousand years, and Africa is considered the primary geographical origin of our species. From thereon, humans formalised various religious practises in different religions, which in turn, either spread peace or caused peace disruption o varying degrees, the most significant was the inquisitions and the crusades in terms of global distribution and numbers. Needless to note that the Mughal invasion of India also caused peace disruption whereby the Hindus were in most cases forced to convert to Islam, especially under Emperor Aurangzeb, reign. Throughout his empire, priests were executed, causing great peace disruption. Guru Tegh Bahadur 11 April 1621-11 November 1675) was the ninth of ten gurus who founded the Sikh religion and was the leader of Sikhs from 1665 until his beheading in 1675. He was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India in 1621 and was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru. Considered a principled and fearless warrior, he was a learned spiritual scholar and a poet whose 115 hymns are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the main text of Sikhism. Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed on the orders of Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor, in Delhi, India. Sikh holy premises Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi mark the places of execution and cremation of Guru Tegh Bahadur. His martyrdom is remembered as the Shaheedi Divas of Guru Tegh Bahadur every year on 24 November.
In Christianity, the Crusades was a dark chapter in the history of the religion, where millions of non-Christians were brutally tortured and killed all in the name of the religion. Presently, in India under the Bharitiya Janata Party of Narendra Damodardas Modi, the Hindu nationalism in the pursuit of Hindutva philosophy, India for Hindus. This religiously motivated philosophy has resulted in the murder of Muslims and destruction of mosques all over India.
In addition, in Buddhism, the monks in Myanmar, were implicated in the killings of Rohingyas, including burning of their babies by throwing them into the torch lit houses of the Rohingyas. The author has highlighted the genocide in an earlier publication. Peter Bouckaert, a veteran investigator with Human Rights Watch, said there was growing evidence of organised massacres, like the one Rajuma survived, in which government soldiers methodically slaughtered more than 100 civilians in a single location. Hundreds of women stood in the river, held at gunpoint, ordered not to move. A pack of soldiers stepped toward a petite young woman with light brown eyes and delicate cheekbones. Her name was Rajuma, and she was standing chest-high in the water, clutching her baby son, while her village in Myanmar burned down behind her. “You,” the soldiers said, pointing at her. She froze. “You!” She squeezed her baby tighter. In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped. By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes, she says. Rajuma is a Rohingya Muslim, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups on earth, and she now spends her days drifting through a refugee camp in Bangladesh in a daze. He called them crimes against humanity, based on deep seated hatred for people of another religion: Muslims.
Furthermore, over the past seven decades, the Zionist state of Israel has persecuted, discriminated, assassinated, specifically maimed and killed thousands of Palestinian women children and men, all for the propagation of propagation of Zionism under the guise of propagating Judaism since 1948 and prior to that era since 1917.
Galtung’s Peace Theory: Galtung’s Peace Theory focuses on addressing the root causes of conflicts and promoting sustainable peace. It emphasizes the importance of structural, cultural, and direct violence as factors that disrupt peace. Galtung suggests that peace can be achieved through positive peace, which involves addressing the underlying inequalities, injustices, and social divisions which fuel conflicts.
The Abrahamic Prophets’ Peace Initiatives: The Abrahamic Prophets, including Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, sought to promote peace among their respective communities and societies. Their teachings emphasized principles such as love, compassion, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation. They advocated for peaceful coexistence, respect for human dignity, and the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means.
The Abrahamic Prophets’ peace initiatives align with Galtung’s Peace Theory in that they both emphasise the importance of addressing root causes and promoting peaceful coexistence based on values of justice, compassion, and reconciliation.
 Personal quote by the author, June 2023
Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
Tags: History, Johan Galtung, Peace, Peace Building, Peace Culture, Peace Education, Peace Studies, Philosophy, Religion
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Jul 2023.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Religious Perspectives on Pillars of Peace (Part 3), is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
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