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Religion And Conflict

Religion And ConflictFor centuries, faith-based battles have helped fuel conflicts worldwide, but a Tufts expert says religion should also play a greater role in their resolution.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.25.02] Though the specific battles over religious disagreements may be new, faith-based conflicts have been a regular occurrence around the world for centuries. While religion can play a powerful role making the conflicts more volatile, an expert at Tufts says faith should also be used in their resolution.

"Religion is as much a potential source of conflict as ever, and today as in the past, [Tufts' Rabbi Marc Gopin and his colleagues] say, disputes that appear to be religious in nature are also rooted in a tangle of local and national struggles over power, land poverty and jobs," reported the Patriot Ledger.

Gopin -- an expert on the role of religion in the Arab/Israeli conflict and a faculty member at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy -- says religion can be a strong undercurrent in conflicts around the world.

"[According to Gopin and his colleagues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.], appeals to faith are especially volatile in places where religion and ethnic identity are still closely linked ...because those appeals tap deep emotional bonds that can transcend other loyalties -- and fuse them to a narrow, us-and-them idea of nationalism," reported the Ledger.

But few of these wars are about religion alone.

"Religion always contributes to conflicts, but it's simplistic to say that they're either about religion or not about religion," Gopin told the newspaper.

The Tufts faculty member has first-hand experience in this area from his work in the Middle East.

In talks with Yasser Arafat's senior advisors, Gopin called for the use of religion to help quell the fighting in the region.

"Gopin thinks Jewish and Palestinian clergy could help defuse the West Bank fighting, if some would agree to make symbolic acts together -- honoring the civilian dead of both sides, perhaps, or arranging the joint dedication of a mosque in Israel and a synagogue in most Palestinian Jericho," reported the Ledger.

While his ideas haven't been put into action yet, Gopin says attempts to use religion to bring peaceful resolutions to faith-based conflicts is very important.

"Without them, religion will be seen to be used only by those with violence," he said.

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