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TEXAS FAITH 123: Why are religious hostilities on the rise across much of the world? What, if anything, can be done about it?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

A new poll finds that religious hostilities have increased in almost every major region of the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, the sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, most likely an after effect of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring. But the Pew Research Center study also found a significant increase in religious hostilities in China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Todd Slater

Some numbers in the new report: a third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Here’s the link: http://www.pewforum.org/2014/01/14/religious-hostilities-reach-six-year-high/

The study looked at efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversations and give preferential treatment to some religious groups at the expense of others. Those haven’t changed significantly. But acts of overt hostility toward religion – religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons or other religion related intimidation or abuse — have increased.

Incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities seen as offensive or threatening to the majority faith are up. In Libya, for instance, two worshippers were killed in an attack on a Coptic Orthodox church. Harassment of women over religious dress occurred in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), compared to less than one-in-ten (7%) as of mid-2007. And mob violence related to religion occurred in a quarter of countries in 2012 (25%) – double the number from five years earlier.

So what’s happening here? Is this just a cycle, a phase? Or is it something else? The power of religious faith to divide as well as to unite has a long history. But clearly in the last few years, people are increasingly using religion for negative and destructive ends in many places.

Why are religious hostilities on the rise across much of the world? What, if anything, can be done about it? Our Texas Faith panel weighs in:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

The cause of any type of injustice is ignorance.  Specifically people misidentify the body at the self.  Therefore, in ignorance, one thinks oneself to be White, Black, Asian, Republican, Democrat, male, female, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, as so on.  The solution to injustice is knowledge of the self and practical application.

It is not that one needs to know just theoretically that one is not the body but the soul within.  One must have a process to practically experience it.  That individual who experiences himself beyond body is self satisfied and thus is peaceful and happy.  A society of individuals who have no self knowledge will never be happy.  Therefore peace and happiness is concomitant of actual spiritual knowledge, everything else is ignorance, despite that it may have a religious appearance.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.