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Divine Religions … An Effective Role in Spreading Peace, Confronting Extremism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Pope Francis I during his trip to the Vatican. (AFP)

Cairo – The 20th century witnessed two world wars that killed millions of people. At the beginning of the 21st century, humanity seems that it is headed towards another world war that is fueled by intolerance and extremism. Amid this humanitarian tragedy, peace has been wasted and humanity has lost its security.

The question we should ask at this point is: “Is world peace indeed possible in human societies that have, from the very beginning, grown accustomed to human conflicts?”

The answer revolves around religions and how they can impose values of peace in the world. Do their tools push man to meet and coexist or are they means to deepen extremism and hate?

A keen observer cannot overlook the recent changes in the world, the Middle East in particular. The region witnessed three summits in the Saudi capital Riyadh that were aimed at combating terrorism and extremism. Religions were at the heart of these summits.

US President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East brought along with him different tools to fight violence and traditional fundamentalism. The battle was usually waged through military force, but this time around, looking at the core of religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, will be a way to wage this fight.

Trump’s first international tour saw him visit the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

In his speech before the leaders of the Islamic world, he declared that the Riyadh summit will mark the beginning of the end to those who are practicing terrorism and spreading its hateful ideology. He also stressed that religions will save the world from extremism and fundamentalism.

From Riyadh, he said that every faithful should be insulted whenever a terrorist kills an innocent in the name of God. Terrorists do not worship God, but death.

Trump was very successful in his speech and he spoke eloquently about the spirit of religions and how far they are from conflicts and wars.

This is not a battle between different religions, sects or civilizations, but it is one between barbaric criminals, who seek to eradicate human life, added the US president.

He asserted that for centuries, the Middle East was home to Christians, Muslims and Jews, who all coexisted.

It is time to once again practice tolerance and restore the region to a place where each man and woman, regardless of their belief or race, can enjoy a dignified life that is full of hope, he stressed.

If the three religions can work together, then peace in the world will be possible.

We in turn ask, where does peace stand in the hearts of the three monotheistic religions? Does it have a place? If so, what road should their followers take in order to reach world peace?

In Judaism, we will ask this deep theological question: What is the will of the Israeli god, Yahweh, towards mankind? Is it peace or enmity?

The answer can be found with one of the major Israeli prophets, Isaiah, who according to the Torah, said: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks- Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

This phrase was engraved at what is now known as the “Isaiah wall” in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City as a reminder of the main purpose of world peace for which the international organization was established.

The quote is self-explanatory, as swords directed against chests should be used to plow the earth to feed the world. Spears should be turned into pruning hooks that reap the good of what was planted by man and war will no longer be possible.

Did Christianity later veer off the course for peace?

Jesus had indicated that some people inherently reject peace in their lives and how they deal with others.

Moses’ law was common during Jesus’ time. It called for “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Jesus decreed however that “whoever compels you to go one mile with him, go with him two miles.”

He sought a peace of pure freedom, saying: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Did Islam differ in its understanding of peace?

Peace in Islam, is first and foremost one of the many names of God. Is man able to wage the battle for peace without divine help?

Islamic Sharia is rife with examples on the relationship between peace and Islam and how Sharia wants peace to be the greatest factor that brings together the Muslim nation.

Has Islam set a constitution on its role in spreading world peace?

Islam has set for Muslims a general principles on peaceful coexistence between them and other peoples. They should be treated fairly, justly and tolerantly as long as those peoples did not launch any form of aggression against Muslims or cooperate with the enemies of Muslims against Muslims.

Given the above, it appears that there are common factors that unite the three monotheist religions. Arab and western thinkers alike agree on these factors.

Preacher and Islamist thinker Sheikh al-Imam Mohammed al-Ghazaly said that coexistence between religions is based on respecting God and agreeing that God chooses his prophets from among the honest people.

Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Kung stated in one of his writings on Islam that there can be no peace between nations without peace between religions.

His statement confirms that religions carry messages for peace, not tools for enmity. At a time when man has modern means for communication, religions, especially the divine ones, should communicate in order to avoid wars and spread peace.