restricted access Appendix D: Building Peace—How?
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260 Appendix D Building Peace—How? When one is well grounded in non-violence, there is cessation of violence in one’s presence. —Patanjali, Yoga Sutra I want to thank the organizers for inviting me to participate in the concluding section of this conference on “Building Peace through Interreligious Encounters.” I have read most of the papers presented yesterday, and I have listened attentively to the papers presented this morning. All the papers, in my view, are rich in content and highly informative. I will not attempt to summarize or critique the papers, something that has been done competently by others. I have just one preliminary remark on all the presentations: I think they all showed very clearly that violent conflicts are rarely motivated chiefly by religion or religious faith. Frequently, the root cause of conflict is economic, social, ethnic, or political, even though it may be dressed up in religious garb. Still, despite this widely accepted fact, religion is not entirely blameless. Quite often, religion has been used (and continues to be used) as a tool of radical mobilization for the sake of basically worldly and nonreligious goals. As John Esposito notes, religion often serves as a marker of collective “identity”—not as a marker of human beings’ relation to God but as an emblem of collective social enterprises oriented toward worldly ends, sometimes through violent means. Unfortunately, this use or abuse of religion is widespread, and it is widespread because it is so convenient and easy. When I say that the abuse is easy, I mean that it does not require any serious involvement Building Peace—How?  261 in religious faith or any serious transformative experience. It seems to me that religiously motivated violence is a sign of small faith. It is practiced by people who merely dabble in faith or are novices in faith and thus do not hesitate to abuse religion for their own ends. For people with deep faith, this is no longer possible, for such people are grabbed and transformed from on high; thereafter, they are in the service of the divine and cannot use God in their own service. Such people can be peace builders. I want to reflect briefly on peace builders, on what kind of people peace building requires. I do not deny the role of institutions, networks, and procedures, but I believe that they are secondary to human qualities. So my question is: what qualities or dispositions are required for peace building? I suggest that there are mainly two such qualities: gentleness and toughness. Although these two qualities seem to be in conflict, they are actually complementary. By gentleness, I mean something like meekness, a peaceful or peaceable disposition. To put this more strongly: in order to be peace builders, we need to be peaceful in the sense of exemplifying in our lives the peace we seek to bring—or, more pointedly, we need to “be” the peace we wish to build. How is this possible? I do not know any shortcut that bypasses such practices as prayer, meditation, or contemplation. By toughness, I do not mean an aggressive or macho disposition but rather the courage or determination to stand up to injustice, resist domination or exploitation, and “speak truth to power.” Recently, I had the opportunity to meet (again) the great Iranian philosopher Abdulkarim Soroush. He was spending an academic year at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (which is similar to the Center for Advanced Studies at Princeton). Soroush is a man of deep faith, not a novice in religious matters; he exudes an aura of quiet gentleness and serenity that affects anyone who meets him. Precisely because he is a man of deep faith, he is strongly devoted to tolerance and opposed to violence of any kind. Not long ago, in late 2004, he was awarded the Erasmus Prize in Amsterdam, a prize given in memory of the great Dutch religious humanist who was himself a peacemaker. On the occasion of this award, Soroush delivered a talk titled “Treatise on Tolerance,” which is an exemplary expression of gentleness and peacefulness. In all his writings, Soroush is fond of citing the great mystical Sufi poets and especially the Persian poets Hafiz and Rumi. “Treatise on 262 Appendix: Building Peace—How? Tolerance” is no exception. There he quotes these lines from Hafiz: “In these two expressions lies peace / in this world and the next: / With friends magnanimity; / With enemies tolerance.” Entering into the spirit of Hafiz, Soroush draws these lessons from...