The Center for Conflict Management recently hosted its 6th Annual conference focusing on the theme of Religion and Reconciliation. Often religion is seen as a dividing force so powerful that people are incited to conflict and violence over doctrines that preach love and peace. Religion can intentionally or unintentionally foster an “us-versus-them” mentality. The 6th Annual International Conflict Management Conference endeavored to examine these issues by bringing together a diverse group of academics and religious practitioners.
The keynote speaker, Father Cedric Prakash, is a human rights activist and priest in India, where he and Mahatma Gandhi share the same home town. Father Prakash is also a peace activist, and he advocates for the rights of minorities. As Father Prakash began to deliver his keynote address, he outlined the targeting of minorities that still occurs today in India. When religious freedoms are restricted by the government, as the government of India has done, individuals of religious minorities are treated as second class citizens. Marginalizing religious minorities only spurs conflict. Father Prakash claims that the root cause of conflict is power, and power is about controlling the lives of others.
The clash between the desire for power on one hand and the desire for peace on the other is part of the “us-versus them” struggle. Hence, as a society we talk about building wars not about building bridges. Wars are also easier to build than bridges because bridges mean we, as individuals, must contextualize our faith, letting go of the difference and focusing on finding common ground. Violence of any sort, resulting from any cause including religion, is tragic. Father Prakash challenged the audience with three questions, which apply to us as individuals, our society, every religion and the way we treat others:
What are we doing?
Where are we going?
What are we doing to ourselves?
It is in the honest answers to these questions that Father Prakash claims lays the key to finding peace. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The hope is that when facts and truth are revealed, we will desire to right the injustices plaguing minorities, end religious violence, and seek out peace for the betterment of humanity.
Posted: April 1, 2016