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Security Culture

Is Peace (only) a Matter of Spirituality?

Beware of God
Beware of God / Photo : Synaptic Impulse - Flickr

Today is the International Day of Peace. Started by the General Assembly in 2002, it is supposed to celebrate peace worldwide.  According to the official calendar that lists all the events taking place in the world today to celebrate peace, at least 70% of the events are related to spirituality and to religious activities.

I find it quite ironic that peace is associated with religion when most of the conflicts that are currently taking place have at least a religious component if not a religious background: the civil war in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan, civil war in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the insurgency in the southern Philippines and many more. I understand that religion and spiritual values can breed tolerance, cultural understanding and open-mindedness. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the most belligerent minds and groups often use religion as a justification for their distinctly unpeaceful agendas.

Wouldn’t it be possible to promote peace without including faith in the package? Couldn’t we establish a true understanding and a peaceful world by using different concepts? The ancient Greeks who invented democracy and laid the foundations for our modern civilization were also confronted with the need to make peace. At the time, peace was established on foundations of social justice, sound legislative processes and economic growth.

This ancient understanding of peace is one that the modern world would do well to keep in mind and it could serve as a useful alternative to spirituality for this International Day of Peace.

5 replies on “Is Peace (only) a Matter of Spirituality?”

Well, generally speaking, spiritual persons aren’t organized in societies or institutions to promote humanistic values or peace (or the opposite: war and chaos). So I don’t really have a problem with them as such, but if you look at the calendar website, let’s say for Australia, all the events with the “spirituality/religion” definition have something to do with denominations and this is where the problem lies.
But I completely agree with you that faith and beliefs are something complex and hard to determinate.

I agree with you Jonas, but don’t confuse spirituality with religion- those two can have very different characteristics and a spiritual person is not necessarily a religious one (or doesn’t identify with an institutional religion). In the same way, spiritual values, if presented in a non-denominational way (as humanistic values, perhaps) can inform debates about peace and cooperation between countries and people.

Thank you Norbert and Cate for your comments!
I agree with you Norbert that a peace without spirituality has, unfortunately, no chance to happen anytime soon.
Cate, I think the main problem with religion is that it gathers religious fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim or Jews) and “lambda” believers that are convinced that religion means peace. And that peace to some believers sounds like war to others. To my perspective, the French model of secularism is the best option and should, ideally, be spread to other countries. What bothers me is not that there are some religion-related peace initiatives; it is that the majority of them have a religious characteristics. By proposing new, secular, solutions to religious conflicts, you also avoid the roots of new potential crisis.

I would suggest that one possible reason for religion and spirituality featuring prominently is that it is simply religious groups who have decided to believe in Jeremy Gilley’s vision, and most wholeheartedly embrace the concept of Peace One Day – as opposed to other groupings, be they financial, economic or scientific. Then it would follow that there would be some spiritual edge to their celebration.

The Jubilee2000 campaign for debt cancellation was heavily supported by religious groups. Would it then be logical to ask for their removal from this area of campaigning for the simple reason that religion should not play a part?

I don’t think the solution would be getting rid of religion altogether. I mean, I really can’t see Quakers, Jains or Unitarian Universalists starting conflicts. Peace is when people with conflicting beliefs have the courage, strength and willingness to accept each other and live together. If these qualities come from their religious background, is that such a bad thing?

It would be so nice to have that achieved. But I am afraid it remains to be a wishful thinking. We could set it as a goal, and try to come close to it. Probably the closer we could get to it, the better for the world. I think the only way to achieve that fully, would be in the situation when religion is no longer a factor. Again, I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

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