There is no way around it. It has, as many claim, the power to move mountains. While it may seem paradoxical, world peace can only be achieved with religion, not without it, says Astrid Prange de Oliveira.
Christians and Muslims of the world unite! Work together to combat religious fanaticism, radical preachers, jihadis and terrorists! Reject warmongers and false prophets who misuse religion! Protect each other from violence!
It is time for a new religious manifesto that frees communities of faith from their bad name. Millions of faithful are already working towards that end. They practice altruism and compassion, facilitate peace and forgiveness, and are committed to human rights and protecting the innocent - sometimes paying for that commitment with their own lives.
There is no way around religion. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), eight in 10 people around the world belong to a religious community. The quest for God, for the meaning of life, and for transcendence are all part of human nature.
Granted: Religion is not an easy subject. In these times of terror and suicide attacks, of child abuse and exorcism, of radical Buddhists hunting down Muslim Rohingya, of Hezbollah militias and Hamas brigades, of Boko Haram, and of terror groups such as "Islamic State" (IS) and al Qaeda, religion appears to be a force for deadly conflict rather than peace.
Nevertheless, neither atheists nor humanists will be able to stop religious radicalization; that is something that can only be brought about by religious leaders themselves. And this is already happening. A study by the renowned Addis Ababa-based Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), for instance, claims that various Islamic movements in Egypt have been steadfastly working to revise the doctrine of jihad since the 1990s.
Among them is a well-known former jihadi, Nageh Ibrahim. "The Islamic State has done more damage to Islam and Muslims than the West," he says. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington, as well as the November 13, 2015, attack in Paris, he says, have pushed Muslims into a struggle with the Western world - a fight that they never wanted.
Terror groups like IS and Al-Qaeda were created, in part, by Western interventions. The Taliban, for instance, gained strength through US support during the fight against Russian forces occupying Afghanistan. And IS arose out of the ranks of the Iraqi army when it was disbanded after US troops deposed Saddam Hussein.
Fundamentalist terror threatens all believers, regardless of religion or denomination. Yet, if they all band together, it has no chance. In the wake of recent attacks on Coptic Christian churches in Tanta and Alexandria in Egypt, many Muslim communities organized blood drives for victims. That would seem to belie the religious strife that many Islamists like to claim exists.
Reconciliation in Nigeria
In Nigeria, too, where Boko Haram has bombed churches and mosques, and kidnapped schoolgirls, Muslims and Christians have come together. Their religious dialogue is led by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, and the Emir of Kanam, Muhammadu Mohammed Muazu. The two have received support for their efforts from the BMZ.
Now is the time to differentiate and to seek shared values. For religious conflict is, in the end, often just a product of political power struggles and a lack of economic opportunity.
Only religious dialogue is capable of ending terrorism and bringing about peace. The step-by-step work that numerous initiatives have been patiently carrying out toward this end, out of the media spotlight, proves that this is not just wishful thinking.
Why, at Easter, the celebration of Christ's resurrection and of eternal life, do we not take inspiration from the faith of those working for peace? My admiration goes to figures like Archbishop Kaigama and the Emir of Kanam, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winners Bishop Desmond Tutu and the avowed Muslim and pro-education activist Malala Yousafzai. They have demonstrated that humanity can defeat death and terror - with the help of religion, not despite it.