This paper strives to have an overview of religion and global peace. The competing conceptions of one and many in metaphysics are seen in religious pluralism of one God, many religions and one religion, many denominations and sects. The epistemological validity of truth as one is challenged by the veracity and illusions of inclusive-exclusive standpoints which religions present in the conflicting perceptions of one reality. The multiplicity of faiths existing simultaneously in the world has given rise to confrontations of powers instead of collaboration of forces to realize global peace. Peace is a global responsibility which falls on the portfolios of both religions and other social institutions in co-responsibility to ensure that there is pacem in terris (peace on earth). The methodology employed in this work is historic-descriptive which means that the contributions of religion to global peace and otherwise were carefully studied and interpreted using the multi-variant peace values as frames of reference. Its findings reveal the historical facts against religion in its culpable compromises against peace in many places and at different times. Another discovery shows the positive contributions which religion has made to the civilization and culture of peace globally. This potency which religion has for peace from the inner man to the global sphere informs the robust and optimistic conclusions and recommendations of this paper – the need to engage religion in the initiation, sustenance and realization of global peace.
Religion is a social institution which has influenced human civilization, both ancient and new, with indubitable potent forces. These influences have not been positive at all times and in all places, as there are some negative aspects. Over time, religion has shown both enormous destructive powers and unprecedented integrative dynamism as a global player in a great number of human affairs. In view of this, it is safe to say that religion has evidences of ambivalent pedigrees and oscillating antecedents in proportions of certainty in its numerous social functions. History has rich archival references to this complexity.
The discourse on religion and global peace raises prima facie (at the first sight) the issues of historicity and factuality of religious conflicts and full blown wars. These negative data make “religion in the contemporary society a very sensitive subject. It has been the root cause of many wars and has also been part of many hidden political agenda. There has been a lot of civil unrest and many wars in the past and even still going on today, due to religion” (Torcato, 2005, p.1). As Ele, (2015) wrote:
In some circles, religion is viewed as laudable, positive and commendable yet on the other side of the debate, it is adjudged laughable, negative and condemnable. The ability and capacity for partnerships which religions have with the public sector for development outcomes at the local, national and international levels give credence to the strengths of religion even in its diverse persuasions. However, its plurality can become an ugly weakness which functions the sundry vices of absolutism, intolerance, violence, bigotry to mention but these which reveal the destructive, divisive and dark sides of religion. (pp. 2-3)
The above citation gives an excellent pictorial balances on the historic testimonials of religion across centuries, cultures and continents. However, evidences are also overwhelming on the side of constructive contributions of religion to development and global peace. Scholars with positive frames of mind on what religion has done, is doing, and can still do in the fields of human progress and global peace give favorable assertions to that effect.
Religion can give the world peace which it so much desires especially in our time by the collaboration among religious leaders who must encourage their followers to respect as sacred those tenets of their confessions that promote peace. There are evidences where the inter-religious seminars, conferences, workshops and interfaith councils have yielded positive results in peace building and conflict resolutions. In the year 2000, August 28-31, more than 500 countries gathered in New York City at the United Nations (UN)’s conference on “The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders”. These religious leaders were drawn from different religions which included Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism. These world faith leaders signed a document entitled Commitment to Global Peace (Wol.jw.org, 2001, P1). We have World Council, Religions for Peace whose motto is “Different Faiths, Common Action”. World Council is a global assembly for multi-religious action with the objective to work for the actualization of world peace.
Religious pluralism which is the multiplicity of religions in the world has issues which at once strengthen and weaken the gains of religion at the instance of global peace. One ugly issue in the contemporary history of religion is terrorism. Religious terrorism seeks to destroy the status of plurality which religion enjoys and tries to enthrone one religion by forces of bigotry, absolutism and intolerance. Therefore, the scholars, experts and leaders of various religions must agree on the reconciliation of their divergent teachings and views that breed confusion such as when Christianity says “turn the other check”. IsIamic terrorists say kill the non-Muslim as he/she is an infidel. Islamic extremists say kill the other or yourself and get many virgins at death. Christianity says there is no marriage or sex in Paradise. In African villages, there are pockets of violence between Charismatic Christian crusaders who destroy traditional shrines without the practitioners’ permission, and the indigenous religionists who disturb Christian activities with their masquerades and sanction the Christian believers based on their unchristian, obnoxious values.
In this section, we shall try to explicate the concepts “religion” and “peace” in order to appreciate their meanings as applied in this work. We begin with the clarification of the concept of religion.
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