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Jack Connolly
Dr. Hamilton
AP Capstone Seminar
29 October 2014
Peace Be with You
In nearly all cultures throughout human history, religion has provided a generally
unifying force amongst the people, yet when differing faiths come into to contact, the result is
not often as terrific. As religion is entrenched in the hearts and minds of the people that follow,
any negotiation, compromise, or general relationships among disagreeing groups can very often
be tense, especially between fundamentalist or radical sects. Even though many religions teach
values that are thought of as positive and beneficial to society, there are plenty smaller sects that
may preach just the opposite; leading to unnecessary conflict.
Religious war has been a constant in human society for millennia. From the Ancient
Greeks polytheistic view of the world to the monotheistic perspective dominating today,
widespread diversity amongst different faiths has led to major suffering on a global scale. But,
something many are eager to discover is a tranquility on the war front not seen in recent history.
While this peace may seem like a monumental undertaking, it is certainly possible to pacify the
situation with appropriate tools; although, a lack of education along with deeply entrenched
religious ideals make any meaningful compromise among different groups difficult, if possible at
all.
For many average people around the world, religion is their world. From dawn to dusk,
everything is done in the name of a god or gods in hopes of fulfilling some divine duty and
gaining a favorable position for themselves. Although it is true that many, if not most, of these

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followers are practicing what are widely considered virtuous or pure beliefs, there has
always existed a smaller segment inclined to violence and more intolerant thoughts. These
groups, exemplified today by the terrorist organizations ravaging the Middle East, use their holy
books to justify killing heretics, destroying buildings, or militarily conquering vast territories
through their acts of violence. The most prolific of these organizations today, a group calling
itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, is ravaging the Middle East regions of Iraq and
Syria, and all in the name of a holy mission to create an Islamic state. By using the global
religion of Islam as justification, the group has managed to exponentially grow as recent
estimates show about thirty thousand foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS (Karadsheh). If this
sort of radical terrorism is to be stopped, the average member or fighter must realize that the use
of religion to justify [...] oppression, mass-murder terrorism, and genocide (Robinson) is not
acceptable or even logical in the least.
Beyond merely the use of holy books, conflicts between different faiths, or even those
within the same faith are extremely difficult to resolve, due to the dual nature of most
denominations; one either follows the will of God, or risks compromising with the devil. After
all, if it is the word of God, how can one compromise it? (Religion and Conflict). because of
this, in any serious negotiations, religious leaders feel that they have an obligation to their
followers to prove that their interpretation is right, a conflict that ultimately cannot be solved
because there is no arbiter (Religion and Conflict). In order to help mollify disagreements,
leaders must put aside religious differences and realize the best solutions based on the welfare of
their people. Although it appears a daunting task, and rightfully so, a reduction of conflict is
certainly possible with widespread collaboration.

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As John S. Spong, a retired bishop said, All religion seems to need to prove that its the
only truth. And thats where it gets demonic. Because thats when you get religious wars and
persecutions and burning heretic at the stake (John S. Spong). And this rings particularly true
regarding the issue of religious peace, as followers of one religion give those of another no
chance to display their essential humanity. To most effectively calm the battlefields, widespread
and objective religious education must be implemented across all faiths and denominations. The
responsibility of primary school educators to mold the impressionable minds of the next
generation cannot be overstated. Whether or not these future leaders will lean towards tolerance
will shape the global landscape when it comes to religious discrimination and wars (Krause). If
educators can succeed in creating an environment of religious tolerance and understanding, the
main cause of interfaith conflict can be severely reduced. As once observed by the infamous Mr.
Hitler, It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge (Adolf Hitler)
battles of faith are much more difficult to mediate than are conflicts between those more
educated about the differences dividing the two warring sides. If leaders and their followers on
opposing sides can understand mutual differences, then peaceful negotiation becomes plausible
rather than all out war over trivial concerns.
A large first step towards common appreciation amongst varying creeds must be to work
alongside one another to tackle shared problems. While many Western religions have long since
worked out their differences and now look past them, the people of the Muslim region of the
Middle East is continually suffering through religiously motivated political power struggles. The
intrafaith split between the Sunnis and the Shiites has existed since nearly the inception of
Islam, with the ten percent Shiite population often ruling over the ninety percent Sunni group.
Because the two denominations are fiercely opposed to each other, many of their countries that

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they call home have been ravaged by incessant religious warfare, but in order to create better
lives for the average citizen, the two must collaborate to repair corrupt governments, improve
their broken economies, and develop a sustainable infrastructure worthy its people.
Finally, to break down the hypothetical walls separating different sects, a healthy
dialogue must be initiated between the two sides with open minds. If one does not discuss with
an open mind, or if one does not view others as equals, or if one refuses to discuss particularly
fragile points, it is indeed impossible to make progress (Smith). As observed by Simone Smith,
one essential for interfaith dialogue is for both to view each other as equals, something not at all
possible without knowing the others story, what they believe in, and how they think. To truly
create productive and meaningful dialogue, the leaders or representatives must be educated
regarding the opposite side.
Beyond all the fighting and disagreements, most religions essentially strive to be good
and virtuous. Ignoring the few radical groups and religious extremists, the followers of these
religions also choose to behave in a generally good fashion. But, where the problem arises is
when uncompromising, power crazed leaders stir up fervor amongst their followers. Using the all
powerful holy books as justification, these politicians use religion to further their own causes,
abusing what was meant to be a force for good. In the near future, the average citizen must
realize the insignificance of this religious power struggle and take back their basic ability to
think for themselves. Knowledge is power and education is the key to freedom.
To start, it was challenging to complete the project due to the fact that there was mainly
one person in the group that made it difficult to complete assigned group tasks on time. From the
individual paper, the summary for the group paper, and the powerpoint slide, he was always late

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to finish making it hard to move on. Along with this, it was hard especially for me to focus in
class, although two others and I were the main ones keeping our group on task.
In the beginning, my group and I were divided between two different topics: religion and
government & politics. With seven group members, this and other decisions were difficult to
make. Ultimately, we decided on the topic of religion as a global issue by a close four to three
vote. While I had preferred to investigate the issue of diversity in government, as a group we
decided to study the impact religious diversity had on different landscapes and areas of life
throughout society. This topic interested us because of its easily observed and wide ranging
effects. Religion is inherently difficult to define: while some may describe it as a belief system
involving a god or gods and its followers, others may be more liberal with their definition,
opening it up to include more philosophical forms of ideas such as Marxism or even extreme
forms of government like communism. Because of this blurry line dividing religion and
philosophy, it was challenging for our group to develop a valid starting point for an overall
argument as well as for each of our own individual papers. In the end, despite some inherent
problems with it, we decided to focus on the conflict caused by diversity of religion at regional
and national scales.
Due to this difficulty of interpreting religion, attempting to investigate the plausibility of
religious peace was equally challenging. As the topic of religious peace is large in scope, I
decided to look into the specific causes of religious conflict and the difficulties in stopping it,
along with possible solutions to halt the incessant conflict or at least reduce it. After using a
search engine to find sources about these issues, certain patterns became evident. These included
common causes and solutions to the problem such as radical sects and the dual nature of religion
as causes, along with education as a possible solution. Another difficulty with this topic was the

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fact that most sources that were easily found came from organizations pushing for religious
peace, making it difficult to represent both sides of the issue adequately. To try to address this
issue, I looked into sources from radical and fundamentalist sects themselves, but there were
none to find that contributed to the development of my thesis and paper. Finally, another
challenge to conducting effective research was the fact that many sources lumped philosophical
and ethical impacts together, discussing whether or not religious conflict justifiable or ethical.
In the beginning, my group and I were largely unaware of ambiguity and tensions
surrounding religion, leading to the aforementioned difficulty in conducting our research and
developing an effective thesis, but as we conducting some initial inquiries, it became clear to us
which topics we had to focus on. Even further than this, after delving into many subject areas
regarding religion and conflict, it was evident that the gigantic scope of religious conflict around
the globe has been widely ignored and many individuals are living their lives naive to the
warfare going on around them. I believe, after all my research, that it is necessary to further
educate common people around the globe of the mutual problems and differences between
different sects and denominations, so that we can all live together as a more peaceful society,
rather than constantly destroying our own kind. It is vital to our survival as a species that we
work to coexist together more peacefully and live in harmony as humans.

Works Cited
"Adolf Hitler." BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 30 September 2014.
"John S. Spong." BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 30 September 2014.
Karadsheh, Jomana, Jim Sciutto, and Laura Smith-Spark Reported from London. Elise
Labott. "How Foreign Fighters Are Swelling ISIS Ranks in Startling Numbers." CNN.
Cable News Network, 14 September 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.

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Krause, Bettina. "Education Is Key to Nurturing Religious Tolerance." International
Religious Liberty Association. IRLA, 2013. Web. 30 September 2014.
"Religion and Conflict." Beyond Intractability. Ed. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess.
Beyond Intractability, Nov. 2005. Web. 30 September. 2014.
Robinson, B.A. "Introduction, One Possible Cause." ReligiousTolerance.org. Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 4 June 2000. Web. 30 September 2014.
Smith, Simone. "A Simple Solution to Religious Conflict." HubPages. HubPages, n.d.
Web. 05 Oct. 2014.