Only intensive and concrete planning, prevention and interventions can help to reduce violence caused by religious extremism and misinterpretation of holy doctrines in adverse ways.
Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to investigate religion and violence by examining the historicity of religious violence, the ways religions promote or oppose violence, and effective initiatives to support inter-religious harmony.
There are four historical moments that reveal the origins of religious violence. The first is associated with the diffusion of world religions during the 4th to 7th centuries of the Christian era. Christianity became the dominant religion of Europe through displacement of the religions native to the continent, and through the officialization of the new religion in the Roman empire. While Christianity spread to Ethiopia in Africa and to South Asia, Hinduism spread to Indonesia, Buddhism to China, Korea and Japan from India. By the beginning of the 8th CE, Islam covered Spain and the Arab world, and went to Sind in the Indian subcontinent. “Much violence was involved in the transcontinental spread of the world religions”2. Although most of the pre-colonial spread of religion was associated with political conquest and physical violence, this was not always the rule. For example, violence did not characterize the spread of Hinduism. Christianity scarcely used violence in spreading to South Asia. King Ashoka converted to Buddhism, unable to bear the carnage of the Kalinga war, and propagated the religion through peaceful means. The second historical moment was colonialism characterized by racial superiority and cultural conquest through the “civilizing mission”. This was in addition to political and economic domination, and was charged with religious violence. “The European missionaries did not even recognize the religions of the New World as religion”3, not even as human beings. Not only were the First Nations not allowed their cultural identity, they were physically liquidated. The people of Africa were considered as primitive, without history and without religion. Hence it was thought to be necessary to convert them to Christianity in large numbers. However, in the case of Islam, they put up a stiff resistance, resulting in violent conflicts between the two imported religions. Today, the leading religion of 50 percent of the African states is Christianity, the other main religion being Islam, thereby relegating native religions to the background. In the Orient composed of the three great civilizations of China, India and Egypt, dominant religions prevailed, related to Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam respectively. Therefore, the scope of Christianizination of these regions through colonialism was limited. The third historical moment is that the European model of the nation-state has been endorsed by religious nationalists in most parts of the world, establishing political hegemony by the religious majority, and the cultural assimilation of the religious minorities into the “nation”. The diasporic Jewish community in Europe which was economically prosperous, were the object of European wrath through the holocaust4. The cold-war era which saw a rapid spread of the concept of the nation-state experienced great violence based on religion, by Christians. Homogenization that erases the cultural identity of peoples and nations is a violent process. The cold-war period which occurred for four decades, divided the world into three: the capitalist democracies of the world, the socialist one-party system of the second world, and the