It was depressing to read of more acts of violence carried out in recent weeks in the name of religion. Two weeks ago 60 people were killed in an attack on a church in Baghdad, contributing further no doubt to what the UN Refugee Agency described as a `slow but steady exodus` of Christians from Iraq. On New Year`s Eve in Alexandria, 21 were killed in a similar act of carnage against a Coptic Church. On Tuesday last the `liberal -minded` muslim Governor of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered by his own bodyguard.He had been attempting to change his country`s blaspemy laws in an effort to spare the life of a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for insulting Islam.
That fact that these are examples of attacks by alleged Muslims upon Christians is almost incidental. We all know of examples of Christian intolerance and violence toward other Christians.The advantage of historic hindsight also reminds that the Crusades were hardly the most glorious moment in European religious history. More currently it`s hard not to be acutely aware of the negative perception of the `Christian` west by Afghani`s and Iraqi`s affected by the odd stray warhead. Not for them the rationale of `collateral damage`.
All right-thinking people know that to persecute others, let alone commit atrocity in the name of religion is quite simply an abomination.Individuals and groups that carry out such despicable acts often do so quoting scriptures and mantra as justification. They conveniently ignore the overwhelming and noble truths in all the great religious texts about peace, love and justice.Contemporary critics of religion frequently use such excesses to remind of the irrelevance, indeed latent dangers of `belief`. Hopefully those of us who accept that there is an important spiritual aspect to all life will counter this. We have a responsibility to condemn such irrational acts of violence and to help keep some sense of perspective. The perpetrators are not representative in any way of their majority communities.They seek bloodshed, mayhem and division for selfish, one-eyed gain. We must seek benevolence, mutual acceptance and peaceful co-existence.
The United Nations Declaration On Religious Tolerance (1981), subscribed to by over 300 nations , states that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" . It would be hard for any caring person,and in particular for an individual true to their particular faith, to disagree with this.