Susan Hayward explains how religion can be a powerful motivator for peace but also for war.
So part of what makes faith and religion such a powerful motivator in support for peace is also what makes it a powerful motivator in support for violence and for war, and we can see that throughout the history of any religious tradition. I work a lot with the Buddhist community, and there’s similar examples as other traditions in Buddhist history and Buddhist contemporary life of Buddhism being drawn on to support violence. But Christianity in particular, I think, has a long and difficult history of Christian ideas and Christian communities mobilising in support of war.
Scott Appleby sometimes refers to what’s called the ambivalence of the sacred – this idea that religion motivates these deep impulses and these deep motivations that can lead people to extraordinary acts, and that sometimes that deep impulse can drive people to violence, but just as much that same impulse can drive people to very selfless and courageous acts of peace. So as peacebuilders, what we need to understand is – particularly in those places where religion is driving people to extraordinary acts of violence, or to prejudice, or to fear – we need to understand those religious motivations and those religious drivers. And we need to speak to people where they’re at in terms of understanding their environment and determining the best moral response to a perceived or a real situation of injustice, and seek as much as possible to draw from some of those same religious resources, but to drive them in the direction of peaceful co-existence and peacebuilding.