2011 began with some bleak news for Muslim-Christian relations around the world. Recent attacks against churches in Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt have killed dozens of Christian worshippers. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government is standing by the country’s controversial blasphemy law which critics say threatens religious minorities. How should political and religious leaders deal with these challenges to interfaith relations?
These events are the sad fruits of mixing raw social and political power with religions that operate on a exclusionary, one-true-path, basis. What you see in Iraq or Egypt is just the extreme and violent form of a sickness that has haunted history since the now-dominant monotheisms rose to prominence and power. If you believe that only your faith can hold the truth, and that all others are either duped, ignorant, or evil, all you need to do is add the promise of power for the persecutions and violence to begin. This is not a controversial statement, or at least not a controversial statement to anyone who has studied history. The histories, chronicles, and even the holy books of the monotheisms, all attest to the fate of groups that their God doesn’t approve of.