Religious peace, violence, & genocide
Religiously-based civil unrest and warfare
|"The war changed everything in my life and I was one of thousands forced to
leave during the ethnic cleansing in my city. But they did not manage to change me. I
have NOT learned to hate my neighbors and I never will." Lana Obradovic, a
student from Bosnia Herzegovina who lost many relatives in the religious
conflict there during the 1990s.|
|"Intolerance breeds injustice. Injustice invariably leads to
rebellion and retaliation, and these will lead to escalation on the
part of both making reconciliation almost impossible. It would appear
that during times of stress, despair and frustration, people become
increasingly irrational, and they do things which they never think
they are capable of. And so we see hideous brutality perpetrated by
the most gentle people."
"Once started, religious strife has a tendency to go on and
on, to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable
inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and
Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many
other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and
again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices,
imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and
bringing about another bout of hostility." Datuk Seri Dr
Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, addressing the World
Evangelical Fellowship on 2001-MAY-4. 4
The role of religion in civil unrest and war:
Often, the media does not identify the precise causes of some of the conflicts
around the world. Clashes are frequently described as being ethnic in origin, even though
religion may have been a main cause.
The true causes of unrest are sometimes difficult to determine. Frequently, there are a
mixture of political alliances, economic differences, ethnic feuds, religious differences,
and others: 1
||In Northern Ireland, "the troubles" refer to about
three decades of violence, largely between the Roman Catholics nationalist
community who sought union with Ireland and the primarily Protestant unionist
community who want to remain part of the UK. It was largely rooted in
discrimination by the Protestant majority against the Catholic minority.
Between 1969 and 2001, 3,526 people were killed by Republican and Loyalist
paramilitary groups and by British and Irish security forces. An uneasy peace
was attained by the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and has endured.|
||The Rwanda genocide was mainly an ethnic conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. The
religious split in the country (75% Christian, mostly Roman Catholic, and 25% indigenous) appears to not have been a
significant factor. On the order of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were
murdered, between 1994-APR to July, mostly by being hacked to death.|
||The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was among three faith groups, (Muslim, Roman Catholic, and
Serbian Orthodox). The Serbian Orthodox Christian attacks on Muslims were considered sufficiently serious to rise to the level of a genocide.|
||The horrendous civil war in Sudan, called the Second Sudanese Civil War, lasted from 1983 to 2005, It had a significant religious
component among Muslims, Christians and Animists. But inter-tribal warfare, racial and language conflicts are also involved. About two million died directly or indirectly during the war. Conflict has eased. A peace agreement of 2011 led to a referendum and independence for southern Sudan, which is known as the Republic of South Sudan.|
||The Second Congo War (a.k.a. Africa's World War and the Great War of
Africa) started in 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By 2008, 5.4
million persons had been killed, largely from disease and starvation.
Hostilities continue to the present. |
A group of world religious leaders from the Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic
and Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim and many other faiths met in Geneva Switzerland
during 1999-OCT. They issued a document, The Geneva
Spiritual Appeal, asking political and religious leaders and
organizations to ensure that religions are not used to justify violence in the
future. Delegates believed that many of the then-current 56 conflicts have religious
Conflicts and wars in the recent past:
It is important to realize that most of the world's current "hot spots"
have a complex interaction of economic, racial, ethnic, religious, and other
factors. We list below some conflicts which have as their base at least some
degree of religious intolerance:
||Type of conflict
||Extreme, radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist
groups & non-Muslims
||Osama bin Laden headed a terrorist group called
Al Quada (The Source) headquartered in Afghanistan. They were protected by, and integrated
with, the Taliban dictatorship in the country. The Northern Alliance of rebel Afghans, Britain and the U.S. attacked the Taliban and Al Quada,
establishing a new regime in part of the country. The fighting
||Serbian Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholic), Muslims
||Peace is holding, due to the presence of peacekeepers.
||Muslims, Indigenous, Christian
||Following the elections in late 2000, government
security forces "began targeting civilians solely and explicitly on the
basis of their religion, ethnic group, or national origin. The overwhelming
majority of victims come from the largely Muslim north of the country, or
are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants..." 5
A military uprising continued the slaughter in 2002. It split the nation into two segments. Periods of peace and violence have alternated as the country struggles towards stability.
||Christians & Muslims
||The island is partitioned, creating enclaves for ethnic Greeks
(Christians) and Turks (Muslims). A UN peace keeping force is maintaining stability.
||Christians & Muslims
||A Roman Catholic country. About 30% of the
population died by murder, starvation or disease after they were forcibly annexed by Indonesia (mainly Muslim). After voting for independence,
many Christians were exterminated or exiled by the Indonesian army and
army-funded militias in a carefully planned program of genocide and
religious cleansing. East Timore won its independence from Indonesia in 2002. The situation there is now stable.
||Animists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs
||Various conflicts that heat up periodically
producing loss of life. Christians are regularly attacked in Orissa province by militant Hindu extremists.
|Indonesia, Maluku Islands
||Christians & Muslims
||After centuries of relative peace, conflicts
between Christians and Muslims started during 1999. About 6,000 were killed; over a half million people were internally displaced; thousands were forced to convert to another religion. Peace talks were initiated by the government in early 2002., the situation appears to be stable.
||Kurds, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yazidi
||This is a country with three main ethnic and religious groups: Shiites, Sunnis & Kurds. For decades, one group has controlled the government, and the other two groups have suffered. In 2014, a new group invaded the country: ISIS. Its goal is to create a caliphate in the region and are now controlling large areas of Iraq and Syrai.
||Hindus & Muslims
||A chronically unstable region of the world,
claimed by both Pakistan and India. The
availability of nuclear weapons stockpiles are
destabilizing the region further. More details
Thirty to sixty thousand people have died since 1989. A plebescite would be the obvious solution, except that either Pakistan or India -- whichever country polls show wold lose the plebiscite -- refuses to allow one.
||Serbian Orthodox Christians & Muslims
||Peace enforced by NATO peacekeepers. There is convincing evidence
of past mass murder by Yugoslavian government (mainly Serbian
Orthodox Christians) against ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslim) Full story
||Primarily Alevis, Muslim, with Christian, Jews, Yarsan, and Yazidis
||This is a country with a tenouous existence in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syraia, and Turkey. It is involved heavily in a war with ISIS. Parts of northeast Syria are under Kurdish control and set up a government there. Some Kurds have autonomy in those areas where hey form a majority. Others are attempting to establish Kurdistan as a separate company.
||Macedonian Orthodox Christians & Muslims
||Muslims (often referred to as ethnic Albanians)
engaged in a civil war with the rest of the country who are
primarily Macedonian Orthodox Christians during the 1990s. A peace treaty has been signed.
Disarmament by NATO is complete.
||Jews, Muslims, & Christians
|| Israel and Gaza have experienced repeated cycles of a tenous peace followed full scale warfare. This has resulted in the deaths of
thousands, mainly in Gaza. Major
strife broke out in 2000-SEP and again in 2014. Flareups continue.
No resolution appears possible. Women and children in particular suffer
|Myanmar (formerly Burma)
||Buddhist & Muslims
||The Burmese public had experienced massive human rights abuses under a military dictatorship that was replaced in 2011 with a nominally civilian government. The Muslim Rohingya a 4% to 10% minority (estimates differ) is suffering major oppression by the 80% Buddhist majority. Even though some of the Rohingya have lived in the country for three or more generations, the government witholds citizenship from them. About 400,000 -- half of the total population of Rohingyas -- have been expelled.
||Christians, Animists, & Muslims
||The country is divided between Yourubas and Christians in the south who live in an uneasy peace with Muslims in the north. Meanwhile, a terrorist group called Boko Haram (roughly translated as "western edication is forbidden." The country is struggling towards
democracy after decades of Muslim military dictatorships. Meanwhile, Boko Haram is attempting to esstablish an Islamic State in the northern states. More
||After 3,600 killings and assassinations over 30
years. A ceasefire is holding.
||Suni & Shi'ite Muslims
||Low level mutual attacks, overshadowed by Taliban
||Christians & Muslims
||A low level conflict between the mainly Christian
central government and Muslims in the south of the country has continued for
||Wahhabi and Sufi Muslims
||Sufi Muslims -- a tolerant moderate tradition of Islam are fighting the Shabab who follow the Wahhabi
tradition of Islam in a continuing conflict.
||Animists & "Witches"
||Hundreds of persons, suspected and accused of
witches practicing black magic,
are murdered each year.
||Buddhists & Hindus
||Tamils (a mainly Hindu 18% minority) are involved in a
war aimed at dividing the island and creating a homeland for themselves. Conflict had been underway since 1983 with the Sinhalese Buddhist majority (70%).
Over a hundred thousand people have been killed. The conflict took a sudden change for
the better in 2002-SEP, when the Tamils dropped their demand for complete
independence. The South Asian Tsunami in 2004-DEC induced some cooperation.
By 2009 the Tamil uprising was crushed by the government.
||Animists, Christians & Muslims
||Complex ethnic, racial, religious conflict in which
the Muslim regime committed genocide against both
Animists and Christians in the south of the country. Slavery and near
slavery were practiced. A ceasefire was signed in 2006-MAY between some of the
combatants. 3 Warfare continues in the Darfur region,
primarily between a Muslim militia and Muslim inhabitants.
||Buddhists & Muslims
||Muslim rebels have been involved in a bloody
insurgency in southern Thailand -- a country that is 95% Buddhist.
||Buddhists & Communists
||Country was annexed by Chinese Communists in late 1950's.
Brutal suppression of Buddhism continues. *
||Animists, Christians, & Muslims
||Christian rebels of the Lord's Resistance
Army are conducting a civil war in the north of Uganda. Their goal is a
Christian theocracy whose laws are based on the Ten
Commandments. They abduct, enslave and/or raped about 2,000 children a year. 6
* We are defining
"religion" rather loosely here to include Communism.
1999-JUN: NATO/U.N. forces occupied Kosovo and ended
the genocide by Serbian Orthodox against ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslims). Most
Serbians left Kosovo. Those remaining are being harassed; some have been
murdered in retaliation for past crimes.
1999-JUL: Nigeria added to list.
1999-SEP: Ambon added to the list.
1999-OCT: Chechnya added to the list.
2001-MAR: Macedonia added to the list. The conflict
has since cooled, and a political solution reached.
d'Ivoire added to the list.
2001-SEP: Radical, extremist Fundamentalist Muslims
centered in Afghanistan attack New York City and Washington. U.S. and
Britain invade the country. The extreme Fundamentalist Muslim government,
the Taliban, were later overthrown and a new government installed.
2002-FEB: Muslim - Hindu conflict heats up in India,
focused on Kashmir.
2002-SEP: Conservative Christians continue civil war
2002-SEP: Hope emerged in the Hindu-Buddhist conflict
in Sri Lanka, the former Ceylon. The Tamil Tigers dropped their goal of
independence when peace talks resumed during 2002-SEP after an absence of
seven years. They are now willing to establish a homeland within the
2003-JAN: A coalition, largely made up of
American and British forces attacks Iraq. This eventually triggers a
civil war, mainly between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
2004 & 2005: Little change occurs, as existing
2006-MAY: A ceasefire was signed in Sudan between
most of the warring factions. If it holds, the genocide there will
probably downscale into mass murder.
2006-AUG: The situation in Sri Lanka appears to
2006-OCT: Thailand added.
2009-MAY: The Sri Lanka civil war concluded with the
defeat of the Tamils.
2011-JAN: 99.6% of voters in the South of Sudan voted to separate from the North. There is hope that decades of civil war among Muslims, Christians and Animists may end. Unfortunately, attacks by the Sudan on border areas continued.
Books about links between religion & violence:
||Richard Abanes, "American militias: Rebellion, racism &
religion," Intervarsity Press, (1996) You
can read reviews and/or order
this book savely from Amazon.com online book store
||G. Scott Davis, Ed., "Religion and Justice in the War over Bosnia,"
Routledge, (1996). Read
reviews and/or order
||Jack D. Eller, "Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History," Prometheus Books, (2010). Highly rated by Amazon.com reviewers. Read reviews and/or order this book
||Marc H. Ellis, "Unholy alliance: Religion and atrocity in our time,"
Fortress Press, (1997). Read
reviews and/or order
||Mark Juergensmeyer, "Terror in the mind of God: The global rise in
religious violence," University of California Press, (2003). Read
reviews and/or order
- "HUMANs and (in)HUMANITY," is an overview of many of the world's
conflicts from a Native American perspective. See: http://members.xoom.com/
- G. Scott Davis, Ed., "Religion and Justice in the War over Bosnia,"
Routeledge, (1996). You can order
this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- Mark O'Keefe, "Religion inflames Sudan war," The Oregonian,
1998-OCT-27, at: http://www.oregonlive.com/
- "Prime minister of Malaysia calls for end to inter-religious
strife," 2001-MAY-5, at: http://www.worldevangelical.org/.
(This is expected to be a temporary link.)
- "The New Racism: The Political Manipulation of Ethnicity in Côte
d'Ivoire." This is a 70 page report by the Human Rights watch which
describe atrocities committed during presidential and parliamentary elections
in 2000-OCT & DEC.
- "Christian militants seize teen girls in raid," Independent News &
- "Russia," The Voice of the Martyrs, at:
- "Darfur conflict," Wikipedia, at:
- "The Cyprus Conflict," at: http://www.cyprus-conflict.net/
Copyright © 1999 to 2015 by
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2015-JUL-07
Complied by: B.A. Robinson