“How America, as well as the rest of the world, deals with religious minorities is going to be one of the major issues over the next 25 years,” moderator Rev. Mark Farr, the director of the Center for Multifaith Partnerships, said at a Roundtable forum at the 2012 Global Peace Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. “Is it the case that faith is the problem? Or is it the solution? Or could it be both?” Rev. Mark Farr, the director of the Center for Multifaith Partnerships
The Roundtable, “Interfaith Strategies Addressing Global Conflicts and Extremism,” examined the common principles to which both policy makers and faith-based organizations refer when working to resolve sectarian or identity-based conflicts; evidence-based models of conflict mediation; and recommendations for strategic partnerships in key hot spots.
Dr. Shuki Ben-Ami, the Dean of Studies at Emil Frankl Institute in Jerusalem and a scholar of Native American culture, explained that for Native Americans, faith and tradition are embedded in culture. “All people, all faces, are the images of God,” he said. “If people are the problem, they are also the solution. The real word of God is love. This is the only word that God gave us.”
Dr. Paul Murray, co-Chairman of the Coalition for American Renewal, said that the underlying issue of many conflicts is “opinion,” due to different interpretations, different mindsets. “Extremism arises when people don’t want to accept differing views. Religion often engenders conflict because religion puts up walls and demands certain things in its very nature. We need to examine relationships, not religions. We should not simply ‘tolerate’ those that are different from us, but live, love and work together to be an ethical society.”
James Patton, Director of the Human Rights Program at the Carter Center, addressed the need to examine how religion functions in conflict. Often one group feels inferior or threatened by another group in which reactions tend towards violence, he said. “Not all religions are cut from the same cloth; we need to remove religion as a driver of conflict.”
Dr. Karin Ryan, Executive Vice President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, said that at this time “we have to be open to voices of leadership and dissent. We’re in a time where we can follow or take a different path. We have to talk about the possibility of ending conflict and America’s role in this.
“People must be prepared to ruffle feathers and ask ‘what war are we in?’ We have to be prepared to challenge why war exists today. We must make space for the voices of dissent and be prepared to follow them.”
The roundtable was conducted as part of the four day Convention, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Building Healthy Families, Ethical Societies, and a Global Culture of Peace,” sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation. The Convention concluded on December 2.
Keely Beck is a graduate student at Emory University in Atlanta.