Is religion to be another victim of Mideast war?

The Iraq war has already claimed a long list of victims: women and children, soldiers fallen or about to fall in battle, the international economy, international legitimacy, the UN, truth and justice, and many others – whether by direct or indirect means. Religion, too, is in danger of becoming one of these victims. Leaders on both sides have invoked the name of God. In our times, religions continue to influence people, but do not determine the decisions of political and economic leaders. These decisions are made on the basis of different calculations and interests. Religious conscience, however, is called upon to resist war, so that religion retains its sacred role of peacemaking, reconciliation, forgiveness and the healing of wounds. At the numerous interfaith conferences that have taken place over the last few years, representatives of different faiths have agreed that religion must bring peace and support peace in the world; that violence and terrorism – individual, group or state-initiated – are against the true spirit of religion; and they have condemned, in particular, invoking God’s will to justify violence and war. At the same time, the participants have undertaken the responsibility to make the cries of those suffering from violence their own, and do their utmost to secure the freedom and dignity of every person and of all peoples. The winds of war must not sweep away the sacred precepts of religion, contaminating the hearts of people with bitterness and enmity for the religion of others. Much greater catastrophes than those caused by weapons of mass destruction could be unleashed by the incitement of religious intolerance. The radioactivity of hatred, enriched by the «uranium» of religious passion, will last long after hostilities have ceased, for decades, maybe even for centuries – as was the case of the Crusades and «holy wars» in the past. Those who believe in a «God of peace» (Romans 15:33; Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 13:20, etc.), and particularly those who have committed themselves to serving him, cannot help repeating insistently the supplication «for peace throughout the whole world,» and strive to do whatever is possible to let justice and peace prevail on earth.