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Religion, Peace and Violence

By: Ayatollah Mahmoud Muhammdi Araqi,
Chairperson, Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, Iran

Following is the text of speech of Ayatollah Mahmoud Muhammadi Araqi at the Fourth Round of Islamic-Christian Dialogue held in Tehran)I honor the holding of the between the Muslim thinkers of the Islamic Republic of Iran and theologians and thinkers from Anglican Church of Britain (Birmingham University) and from Ireland. The topic of this round of dialogue is "Religion, peace and violence". The study of this topic more than ever before can help us explore answers to the questions that have preoccupied many of us. A glimpse at the topic of the conference in the light of a deep understanding of the prevailing conditions would underline the significance of the subject.
Let us cast a glance at the three concepts of our topic to shed light on the subject and its orientation. Religion or religiosity refers basically to the field of religious thought or the followers of religion. But I maintain that belief in religions or various religions, particularly in the field of Abrahamic religions requires phenomenological approach, for what has been revealed to the holy prophets as religious beliefs, doctrines and statements stem from a single source addressed to man as a single addressee. Due to his evolutionary talent, man can put some stages behind in the process of his flourishing to receive the comprehensive message of God.
The first message is indeed the final message of religion and the final message is perfection. Hence, I believe that in our understanding of the divine message, we do not have religions, but we have the religion of God that has been revealed through the prophets in the form of consecutive, continuous messages in the process of man's evolution. The content of this message is a charter and instruction whose objective is to teach man the way of proper thinking and behaving to achieve salvation, felicity, and happiness and to establish a proper life to flourish his talents and grow spiritually.
All these underline the capability of religion to build civilizations. The constructive message of religion contains a set of statements that creates a balanced and moderate system compatible with man's nature (fitra). This will naturally direct man towards felicity and salvation. According to the Quran the existence of epitomes such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad demonstrates the effect of these statements on man's nature aimed at bringing him man in a proper manner. In brief the message of the Abrahamic religions is a single message which ensures man's felicity, salvation and happiness. Hence, these statements can be studied from a single point of view regarding peace and violence. Several years of dialogue between Muslims and Christians have helped us realize that there are differences between the following two statements: "justice is good"; "peace is good and violence is bad".
One can say that justice is good anywhere and for anybody at any time, but are peace and violence good or bad at any stage? Utterance of absolute statement about justice and conditioning other concepts to justice may help us conclude that justice is the parent of peace and a criterion for evaluation of violence. Now let me infer from the above that the philosophy of religious belief, doctrines and statements should be analyzed on the basis of justice. Even such accidental concepts as peace and violence in their positive and negative aspects should be analyzed in this context. Violence in its modern sense means application of non-peaceful, illegal methods which are created out of natural, individual and social excitements.
While violence in its positive sense is a ground for execution of law, fight against oppression, and legitimate defense which is a manifestation of God's might in the implementation of just, ethical sublime laws. It is a method of religion and a precept of the wise. However the falsification of the true legal concepts to modern concepts and even the falsification of the religious values are in line with political objectives. These are in contradiction with religious principles and when a large number of believers protest, it is interpreted as violence. The recent events that the world witnessed were in fact the call of the Muslims for preservation of their religious rights and respect to the highest beliefs of the Islamic society and refraining from sacrilege of their sanctities. Is the freedom of speech which is a just principle a just and logical permission for affront to the sanctities of others? Can any fair believer remain silent against sacrilege? Isn't such a protest just? Is it violence, stemming from a violent thought?
Is the prevention of a nation from scientific research and progress for peaceful purposes and for sustainable peace or imposition of a scientific embargo on a nation fair? Isn't this political behavior itself unjust and violent?
I am sure the present gathering is a good opportunity to study just peace and violence from religious point of view. On my part I wish all the honorable participants best of success in their sincere endeavor.

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