2nd Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs – Thematic Focus: Religion, Violence, and Extremism
Brief summary of presentation of information made
- FBOs have a critical and influential developmental role to play in SDG 2030 Agenda as at least 30% of global social services are run by FBOs. Therefore FBO actors need to be able to reach out to other FBOs and work together in partnerships with multi-lateral approach.
- Notions of human dignity and human rights connect the issue of religion, violence and extremism.
- Religions are often misused to promote political agendas, distorting the aim of service. This distortion risks peace and security and divides nations and cultures. All religions have an element of a jealous and vengeful God which can be misconstrued to perpetrate violence.
- There is an urgent need for instilling a sacred view of humanity and a different view of a fierce God – a correlation exists between how people view God and how other human beings are treated. Violence takes root as a result of a distorted theological frame of reference including distortion of the character of God and a misunderstanding of human dignity. Every religion has a history of fighting and conquest, and intolerance to difference or the other. Religion is not the cause of violence but a misinterpretation of texts and self. If the cause is seen as moral or just, it can legitimize violence, terrorism and war.
- Root causes of terrorism include political, economic, religious, nationalism and identity, democracy, repression, poverty, inequality and exploitation
- There must be a move to embrace dignity and difference of all people; promote and uphold religion and beliefs of others; respect and affirm each human being; care for emotional, spiritual and physical needs of each human being; in all encounters with others, give priority to honor those we meet; treat people and religious places with respect; stop all forms of trafficking on basis of religion, race and ethnicity, put an end to violence to girls as a cultural convention; promote gender equality as a deterrent of abuses towards others.
- It’s counter-intuitive for western powers to invest and arm leaders in an area, and then expect problems to be solved. Legitimizing actions by “democratization” is problematic. A new narrative and tactic is needed towards prevention rather than arming and increasing violence.
- Recent research points motivation of extremism to unjust actions from a community/society – not by the religion itself. It then uses literal context of scripture to legitimize actions.
- Assuming fault of extremism to Muslims is problematic – 90% of victims are Muslim.
- Investment in youth is needed – extremists recruit primarily youth from a young age. Youth also see the issues first-hand and have strategic voices – are a population thirsty for knowledge and change.
- Role of women – most religious leaders are still men. Not using their voice cuts off half the population.
- 90% of delivers in religious organizations are female, but there’s mostly male leadership – and it’s the leaders who present to the public and make decisions. Accurate decision-making and organization requires for woman to be leaders as well.
- Social justice issues are not separate; they are all connected and systematic. Tackling extremism is tackling a variety of issues simultaneously.
- Tackling terrorism and extremism is central the UN’s core – it has roots to its founding days (WWII and Nazism). Tackling extremism is at the center of the UN today.
- Current director of UN’s counter terrorism unit, Mr. Jehangir Khan, quotes Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in that this issue is not just one group, it’s worldwide, across all religions, and that Arabs/Muslims make up the majority of victims of violent extremism in the Middle East.
- In efforts, “countering” terrorism needs to shift into “prevention” – and this is done by tackling root causes.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
The Salvation Army needs to emphasise beliefs and teaching which emphasise the value of the human person who are made in the image of God and therefore all human life must be valued and treated with dignity. The connections between our doctrines and the importance of human rights should be explored. The Salvation Army's role as a peace-maker and force for reconciliation needs to be emphasised. This includes tolerance towards people of other faiths.
Viewpoints that perpetuate extremism, exclusiveness and lead to violence should be avoided.
In a broader context – the importance of using youth when doing work in all services and programs is significant as they are a great source of thinking and creativity. Hearing their voice will implement better programming.
Investing in local leaders and players in a community is essential in programs and service provisions. Representatives of The Salvation Army visiting other parts of the world need to actively respect the culture of the place where he/she is visiting, working with, and/or serving.