This article was originally published by YaleGlobal on 18 April 2017.
Debate about a nuclear arms race may be missing a moral dimension, and these debates should include all nuclear powers
The second nuclear age takes place in a post-Christian world. New atomic missiles come from North Korea, Pakistan, India, China – with diverse religious and nonreligious traditions. The United States, set to start its own nuclear modernization, now too is a post-Christian nation.
“Post-Christian” here means the decline in primacy of a Christian worldview in politics, especially in the United States and Europe. During the first nuclear age and Cold War, both were Christian societies by this definition. And while Christianity still has many adherents, it lacks the authority it had during the years of the Cold War. This decline of authority means that calculations of self-interest in international politics bear almost all of the weight for restraint and shaping world order. Questions that drove debate about the Cold War arms race are no longer asked with the same passion. Yet these questions haven’t vanished. Who, for example, determines the national interest? Who does the calculations on which self-interest is founded and that determine nuclear armaments buildup?
Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.
The purpose of today’s blog, which is the second of a multi-part series, is to illustrate how Christian religious resources can be used to teach negotiation and mediation skills. (To learn about the broader criteria of applying these resources, see my previous blog here.) Specifically and provisionally, what I would like to focus on here is what the Bible says about the ‘when’ and ‘how’ to negotiate and mediate. The ideas that follow were inspired and tested in a workshop in 2016 organized by the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Program with the Heads of Christian Denominations (HOCD) representing the main Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Apostolic Christian church formations within the country.
Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.
A pastor tells a negotiation expert: “The truth will set you free!” The negotiation expert responds: “What “truth”? It all depends on your perception! And anyway, why are you telling me this; what is the interest behind your position?” One can imagine how this type of interaction could quickly degenerate into miscommunication. However, one can also take it as a starting point to reflect on how different professional communities – in the following case, religious actors and negotiation and mediation experts – can interact constructively.
The purpose of today’s blog, which is the first of a multi-part series, is to see what guiding principles can facilitate the above interaction. The blogs that will follow this one will then illustrate how mediation can be performed by different religious communities and profitably rely on religious sources, such as the Bible or the Quran, to train negotiators and mediators.
Courtesy Alan Levine/Flickr
This interview transcript was originally published by by E-International Relations (E-IR) in September 2016.
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is Professor of Political Science and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Hurd’s latest book Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton, 2015) has attracted international attention by framing important debates around what the author believes is a problematic intersection of policy, religion and political interest in global affairs today. In this interview she discusses the implications of her scholarship and where she believes the study of religion in IR is headed.
What motivated you to write your latest book Beyond Religious Freedom?
Beyond Religious Freedom is my response to what I see as a need to rethink how we approach the study of religion and politics in the field of international relations. There’s been a gold-rush mentality lately as scholars scurry to ‘get religion right’ – but many of these efforts are confused, or even troubling. The problem, as I discuss in more detail elsewhere, is that international relations ‘got religion’ but got it wrong. Beyond Religious Freedom encourages scholars to step back from the political fray. It neither celebrates religion for its allegedly peaceful potential nor condemns it for its allegedly violent tendencies. Instead, I propose a new conceptual framework for the study of religion and public life. It accounts for the gaps and tensions that I perceived between the large-scale international legal, political and religious engineering projects undertaken in the name of religious freedom, toleration, and rights, and the realities of the individuals and communities subjected to these efforts.
Courtesy Syria Freedom / Flickr
This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 25 August 2016.
In June of 1981, after serving for 16 months as the first president of Iran, I was in hiding. There had been a coup against me; a fatwa had been issued for my execution seven times over. I published an open letter to the Iranian people, quoting Madame Roland’s last words under the guillotine during the French Revolution:
“One day, a condemned woman under the guillotine said – ‘Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!’ Today, and more so tomorrow, it will be said – ‘Oh Islam, such crimes are committed in your name!’ Islam will be so discredited that for a century no one will speak of rights in the name of religion.”
This prediction is truer today than it was then. The dynamics of power remain constant. Power needs an enemy, and violence is the sole means of its interaction. But power cannot exercise itself without legitimacy; it requires ideology, in which ideas are manipulated to serve the needs of power. Gradually, the ideas are divorced from their origins and the process of their alienation in power becomes complete. What is left of the ideas is nothing but an ideological shell filled with violence and power.