It would be an understatement to say that the political use of religion has all too often had a corrosive influence throughout human history. It continues today to be a major factor not only in igniting and sustaining local and regional sectarian violence but also in underpinning many of the worst and most brutal international conflicts.
Although most of the abuses of religion in politics today are carried out in the name of very few religions, it must be recognized that the political use of any religion has led and will always lead to similar results. We are therefore committed in this initiative to addressing all abuses of all religions.
The international community has been, and continues to be, obliged to commit huge resources to deal with the conflicts caused by such abuses of religion, without coherently addressing the root causes.
Arguably well intentioned, the world’s leading powers have often made grave errors when dealing with religious sensitivities in local and international conflicts, playing into the hands of sectarian and extremist parties.
We need to lobby these powers to pay greater regard to the balance of religious, political, and economic forces when determining courses of action in order to avoid exacerbating such conflicts.
The dangers come not only from those using supposedly divine rights to trample on the rights of others, including those of the same religion, but also from the extreme reactions directed towards vulnerable people of the same faith as the fanatics.
The world has witnessed many examples of the above, from America to Europe, the Middle East, Myanmar, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, where faith has been repeatedly used to legitimize attacks on immigrants and minorities.
Without putting in place clear international rules to deal with the root causes, this cycle will continue to drag the world deeper into violent chain reactions, like the horrific massacre in Sri Lanka, which many say was a direct retaliation for the mass atrocity in New Zealand.
We must not forget that the current murky situation is also allowing vicious political and economic interests to manipulate religious teachings to serve distasteful agendas.
We believe that the time is now right to initiate and coordinate a concerted global effort to stop the use of any religion to justify any political endeavor that uses religious intolerance and division to its own ends.