Is Religion a Force for Peace?

History is riddled with strife, chaos, and violence that only tell us that religion is absolutely not a force for peace. It is, evidently, quite the opposite. To defend their own beliefs, many people have sacrificed their lives and, sometimes, have become martyrs in their own circles. Pages of history tell of the Crusades, the Holy Wars, and other similar events that people pushed for in an effort to make the world hear that their religion is the absolute truth or, in most occasions, in order to gain political, economic, or territorial control. However, it is also evident that events of the past has not been adequate to make people know better than to force people into their circle.

The Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns, waged by much of Roman Catholic Europe, particularly the Franks of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The specific crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century. The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholic forces (taking place after the East-West Schism and mostly before the Protestant Reformation) against Muslims who had occupied the near east since the time of the Rashidun Caliphate, although campaigns were also waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the various popes.

The Great Revolt, which began at Caesarea in 66 CE, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of the Judea Province against the Roman Empire. It rooted from the Greek and Jewish religious tensions but later grew with anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens.

The Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 AD) against the Roman Empire was the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea Province and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years, but a Roman army of 12 legions with auxiliaries finally crushed it.

During the reign of Emperor Zeno, tensions between the Christian community and the Samaritans in Neopolis grew dramatically. According to Samaritan sources, Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno (who ruled 474-491 and whom the sources call “Zait the King of Edom”) persecuted the Samaritans with no mercy. The Emperor went to Sichem (Neapolis), gathered the elders and asked them to convert; when they refused, Zeno had many Samaritans killed, and re-built the synagogue to a church.

These events are only a few of those that I can cite to give a solid foundation to my conclusion on where religion stands in the sphere of peace. However, it maybe so that I am narrow-sighted and only looked into those tragic events with a religious root. Then again, maybe, religion isn’t the core of the problem. Maybe, religion isn’t to blame. Maybe, it is the people who run these institutions. All the same, the touch of religion is evident and undeniable.

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