Photo credit: United Nations OHCHR
In June 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi led the so-called Islamic State to capture the Iraqi city of Mosul, launching the organization onto the world stage and quickly establishing a reputation for brutality toward minority groups and all who opposed its rule. Later that same year, Pope Francis played a critical role in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, cementing his reputation as a bridge builder and peacemaker. Though the two men come from different faiths, their examples demonstrate the divergent ways religion can inspire violence as well as peace. From the Spanish Inquisition to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Osama bin Laden to Muhammed Ali, and from the Rohingya crisis to the Dalai Lama, religion has been used to justify war and peace.
In a positive nod to the start of 2018—and to push back on the current fixation with the divisive role religion plays—our January newsletter focuses on how religion promotes peace. Indeed, even in the age of the Islamic State, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Buddhist nationalism, religion can still serve as an effective peacemaking tool. Read on to learn more about the relationship between peace and religion, and meet some peace activists inspired by different faiths.