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Religious Traditions of Peace in Times of War

June 20, 2003

Executive Summary

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The U.S. decision to go to war on Iraq prompted a debate, still ongoing, about justifications for the use of force. At the same time, another set of debates arose about religious justifications for war -- ranging from contested interpretations of jihad, to the moral imperatives of pacifism and nonviolence. In October 2002, the Carnegie Council and the Uehiro Foundation for Ethics and Education cosponsored a workshop on "Religious Traditions of Peace in Times of War." Rather than focus on religious justifications for war, workshop participants focused on how different religious traditions -- Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- have given adherents the ability to response to situations of conflict with nonviolence.

Participants not only looked to ancient texts and practices, they reflected upon the contributions that various religious leaders have made to the current debate over the sources of seemingly endless global conflict. Rather than despair over a "clash of civilizations," participants -- who included professors of religious studies and prominent theologians -- sought to uncover overlapping principles of peaceful activism that might help transform situations of violence into ones of coexistence.

The workshop is part of the Council's continuing attempt to draw from the world's philosophical and religious traditions the resources for protecting human rights and peacefully resolving conflict.

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