Letter: Faith and violence

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The Independent Online
Sir: It might be helpful if we stopped viewing religion as a purely abstract phenomenon ("Religion in the Middle East: the fundamental problem", 3 December). Religious traditions involve the subjective responses of their adherents; in times of violent conflict texts are read in the light of the fears, anxieties and aggressions of the faithful.

This can lead to highly selective and biased interpretations which are indeed very dangerous. Instead of examining the tradition as a whole there is a tendency to focus on material which appears to justify violence. Such material is usually balanced by the ultimately humane visions of the faith communities, but in times of conflict these ideals can be drastically corroded.

It is vital for religious communities to take responsibility for the violence done in their name and challenge their extremist off-shoots, but this can demand great courage and self-sacrifice.


Education Officer

The Council of Christians and Jews

London WC1