89. Are Christianity and Islâm religions of peace?

Christianity has holy texts and traditions such as the ‘pentateuch’ that promote violence as well as peace. The New Testament deriving its inspiration from the teachings of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit rejects violence and advocates for peace, love and compassion. The confusion over how to restrain evil has led powerful so-called Christian nations to attack evil regimes with powerful armies and to incur incredible losses of human life in the attempt to constrain evil. The fact that many of these wars resulted in the annihilation of evil dictators focussed on taking over the world by sheer force of military domination, seemed to justify Christian violence and just wars. The Inquisition, Crusades, Wars of Religion and anti-semitism are among the most notorious black spots on Christian history in the last 2,000 years. Miroslav Volf says that ‘Christianity is intrinsically nonviolent, but has suffered from ‘a confusion of loyalties’. Rather than the character of the Christian faith itself, a better explanation of why Christian denominations are either impotent in the face of violent conflicts or actively participate in them derives from the attitudes of their adherents which are a dichotomy of the practice true Christian faith.’ The dichotomy here seems to stem from the expectations of culture and ethnicity and political systems to advance war as a solution to a conflict. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of peace and Christ suffered violence and death to demonstrate that truth overcomes violence and triumphs without the use of barbaric means. Jesus statement in Matthew 10 verse 34 that ‘He did not come to bring peace but a sword’ are interpreted to mean that the spiritual battle between His disciples and the slaves of Satan would led to the use of the sword. Jesus showed in his teaching and ministry especially to the demo possessed that His Kingdom and the kingdom of Satan were violently opposed. John the Apostle of Love records Jesus’ words in John 14 verse 27 (NASB) as ‘Peace I leave with you: My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.’

Seeking peace should be the prerogative of all Christians. The Apostle Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5 verses 17-19, ‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.’ Christians are no longer the enemies of God, and seek to reconcile all people peacefuly to a loving and merciful God.

‘Religion of peace’ is a political term used as a description of Islâm. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, some politicians tried to use this term to differentiate between the Religion of Islâm and the activities of terrorists. The word Islâm is derived from ‘aslama’, which means ‘to surrender’ and the word ‘salaam’ which means ‘peace.’ Pacifism in Islâm is associated with the Ahmadiyya, Alevi, and Mouride sects. Islâmic Law stipulates detailed regulations on the use of violence, including violence within the family or household, the use of corporal punishment, and well as when and how to wage war. The Qur’an states in Surah Al Isra’ 17 ayah 33 ‘Nor take life which Allâh has made sacred, and if anyone is slain wrongfully we have given his heir authority to demand Qisas (that’s a life for a life) or to forgive, but let him not exceed the bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped by the law.’

Some National Leaders of Islâmic countries have openly stated that Islâm is a religion of peace, and that there is no justification in Islâm for the use of violence against innocent people. These leaders, head countries that have a history of decades of violent abuse of political dissenters, and apostates are tortured, poisoned and killed. There is a serious need for introspection within Islâm, to search out why the Prophet of Islâm was a military Commander and why Islâm advanced on the end of a sword. The reasons are compelling and could shed light on how to deal with the present global crisis of terrorism and its connection with Islâm. Those people who have lived as guests in Islâmic countries can testify to the regularity with which internal violence happened on a Friday afternoon after the sermon at the Mosque. Non-Muslims living in these countries often find it easier to abandon any outdoor activities on a Friday afternoon to preserve their safety.

From the Life of Muhammed the Prophet of Islâm it is fair to say that until the end of his life he had been reluctant to go to war (see Surah Al Anfal 8 ayah 61 – ‘But if the enemy incline toward peace, Do Thou also incline toward peace, and trust in Allâh: for he is the One that hearth and knoweth all things.’) He was concerned about the loss of his soldiers and sought a treaty if possible. The shaming of the Prophet of Islâm in the last days of his life by The People of The Book in Medina was a serious provocation for violent actions involving the death by the sword of hundreds of the residents of Medina. This is not an attempt to justify this action but to try to understand it, and understand the Muslims’ strong urge and obligation to defend the honour of Allâh and the Qur’an. The sad part of this story occurs when fabricated stories are made up against an enemy that charges the enemy with blasphemy or shame relying on an enraged mob to deal to the enemy without due process of a just legal system investigating the facts. Many Islâmic countries have a long long way to go to stop this type of activity that makes the world think that Islâm is a religion of death and violence. Islâm is on the brink of a major religious and spiritual reformation to bring it into the 21st century. The majority of educated Muslims around the world are longing for this ‘reformation’ to come as soon as possible. The unlawful actions taken to punish those who allegedly shame Islâm is having the reverse effect of shaming the majority of educated and thinking Muslims. The Theological Centres of Islâm are still far away from accepting or tolerating this ‘reformation’.