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Top Archbishop Says Religions Must Own Up To Extremism

Top Archbishop Says Religions Must Own Up To Extremism
"It is the duty of every religious tradition, for its leaders to resist extremism and to teach peaceful dialogue," said the Archbishop of Canterbury.

By Chrispen Charamba
August 30, 2019

Religious extremism, fundamentalism, violence and terrorism can be found around the world in worrisome supply. The term Religious extremism describes faith-based actions that are deliberate attempts to cause harm to other people. It includes violent religious movements, routine asceticism that is extreme enough to cause medical concern, beliefs that cause harm through denial of medicine or mental harm through abusive family behaviours.

Religious tolerance, multiculturalism and equality are the particular targets of extremists. Their own religion provides guidance that trumps any secular law or any concept of Human Rights.

Although all mass movements breed the occasional extremist, the horrific spectres of oppression and violent coercion have resulted mostly from Abrahamic monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and to a lesser extent from other traditional religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism especially because of battles against multiculturalism.

Most justifications for religious extremism are fundamentalist in nature, based squarely on religious doctrine, strictly interpreted. The declining strength of religion in the face of secularisation means there are fewer middle-ground religionists to rein in extremists.

Addressing interfaith leaders in Sri Lanka, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rev. Justin Welby said all religions and their leaders must own up to extremist activities within their faith and examine which of their traditional teachings enable extremists to commit evil.

The figurehead of the worldwide Anglican Church, who had gone to Sri Lanka on Thursday to meet with Buddhists, Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders and to pay homage to those killed in the Easter suicide bomb attacks blamed on Muslim extremists, told religious leaders that accepting responsibility is key rather than disavowing an evildoer as not a good enough follower of a religion.

Discussion among faiths has become more difficult in the last 30 or 40 years and in every faith, including in Christianity, extremist attitudes have grown, he told the religious leaders.

"And it is the duty of every religious tradition, for its leaders to resist extremism and to teach peaceful dialogue. So the first challenge to all of us is take responsibility. If a Christian does something evil, it is not for me to say 'well they are not a real Christian'; I have to ask myself 'what is within my faith tradition, our historic teaching that makes it easy for them to do that?'" he said.

"The second challenge in dialogue is honesty. Dialogue is where we are honest, where we open the door of our heart and say it is this that frightens me about you or this that I disagree with you about," said Archbishop Welby.

"Whether Christian, Muslim Hindu, Buddhist whatever faith, society calls us to account and I believe that God calls us to account at the end of time. Have you been builders of peace or builders of pain?"

In the Easter attacks, over 260 people died in six coordinated attacks on churches and hotels. Seven suicide bombers from two local Muslim extremist groups who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State group carried out the attacks that also wounded some 500 people.

Other suspects killed themselves by exploding bombs, some with their families, as police and military closed in.

Islamic clerics expressed outrage at the attacks and did not allow the suicide bombers and those who killed themselves to avoid capture to be buried in Islamic burial grounds, having declared that they do not belong to the Muslim faith. Their children were buried with Islamic rituals.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks comes a week after a group of United Nations experts said that countries have an important role to play in promoting religious tolerance and cultural diversity and that they can do this by promoting and protecting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.

"We welcome the decision of the UN to designate 22 August as the international day to commemorate the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about religious intolerance, and violence and discrimination against anyone based on their religion or belief," said the experts.

The experts urged States to step up their efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and violence against people based on religion or belief, including against members of religious minorities and people who are not religious.

Hallelujah Magazine is committed to publishing reliable, trusted, quality and independent Christian journalism. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and is not influenced by wealthy people, politicians, clerics or shareholders.

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