Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

Wars: religious, or with the pretext of religion?

Source:   www.imerisia.gr/article.asp?catid=26511&subid=2&pubid=119889


Almost all of the wars that bear the stamp of religion have political and financial underpinnings, according to speculators.

«With the help of God on our side, we shall be victorious in Iraq!», George Bush proclaimed prior to the war...

«Fight, as though God Himself has given the order!», Saddam Hussein had exhorted the Iraqis in the opponent's camp...

Leaders who invoke God to justify their expansionist plans...

Armies that invoke God's help before embarking on campaigns and launching invasions...

What is God's part in a war?  Are religion and religious differences really the reasons behind conflicts?

Almost all religious wars hide political and financial interests and territorial claims, according to researchers at the Department of Peace Studies of Bradford University.  As mentioned in the survey, armed conflicts rarely -if never- don't exclusively relate to religion.  Albeit executed in the name of a higher power, their roots are traced to elements that are more... venal: economy, politics, natural resources, territorial claims, nationality, identity...

When the U.S.A. and Britain were preparing the ground for their war operations in Iraq, the association between religion and war reappeared on stage...  "Holy war", "righteous war", "conflict of cultures" were some of the terms mentioned in abundance. But according to the research, the invasion of Iraq was a war that had been phrasally ascribed to religion: the... religious conscience of one man alone - George Bush...

If one were to attempt to distinguish which are the authentically religious wars - the ones that are linked mainly to religious convictions rather than political purposes - one has to look back over past centuries : to the Islamic expansion of the 7th century, when war was a determining factor for the dissemination of the new religion; to the Crusades which commenced in the 11th century and was one of the bloodiest periods in the history of European Christendom; to the wars during the Reformation period, which commenced in the 16th century; with the spreading of the predominance of the Christian Church in Europe.

20th century

The prevailing view is that the organizations or groups who are implicated in conflicts with religious folds increased significantly during the half century after the end of World War II : from 26 during the period 1945-1949 to 70 during the 90's decade.

However, in the last 100 years, authentically religious wars were few. The Israeli-Arab wars which had begun in 1948 and had often been presented by the Mass Media as religious wars, were in actual fact the result of nationalist trends, the liberation of territories, or for self-defense.  The Islamic terrorism war that Al-Qaeda has been waging for years, has mostly to do with the political status in Arab countries and the presence of American forces in Islamic countries, rather than the religious proselytism of foreigners or the expansion of territorial supremacy in the name of God.

Osama Bin Laden presents that war as a religious duty - a duty however that springs from an enmity towards the USA, its ally Israel and certain Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia which they consider to be oppressive.  A hatred that is possibly set off by the presence of USA forces in Islamic countries, or the American attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan; or America's support of Israel and Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

The attacks by Al-Qaeda, as well as the clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat, India in 2002 are the most recent examples of religiously motivated violence in the 21st century. Both cases prove that religion can be the probable cause for war, only when religion and State authorities become its allies or become involved.  In Gujarat, the spark that set it off was the attack - quite possibly by Muslims - on a train carrying Hindus.  Result: 58 dead.  The retaliation was immediate: In the following days, Muslim families, homes and businesses became the targets of armed attackers... Result: about 2000 Muslims dead.  As for the war in Iraq: that was clearly not a religious one; it was simply embroidered with religious words and expressions...

The White House officials often refer to terrorists as "sinners", while Saddam Hussein's followers are referred to by the occupation forces as "the infidels".  Both sides invoke the Almighty, each seeking the final victory...

But, as Abraham Lincoln had said more than a century ago, "in major confrontations, each side argues that it is acting in accordance with God's will. They both believe  it, and yet, one of them must be mistaken... God cannot be in favour of - and opposed to - the same thing, at the very same point in time."

The role of religion in wars
The degree that religion or religious differences played a role, from 0 to 5  \/ \/ \/ \/ \/  \/
  0 1 2 3 4 5
The most significant wars from 1000 b.C. to the end of the 19th century AD
The Zhou defeat the Shang in China 1027 b.C.            
Persian Empire established 550-530 b.C.            
Makanda wars in India 490-435 b.C.            
Greco-Persian wars 499-488 b.C.            
Roman wars 498-272 b.C.            
Peloponnesian War 460-445 b.C.            
Great Peloponnesian War 431-404 b.C.            
Campaign of Alexander the Great 336-323 b.C.            
First Carthagenian War 264-241 b.C.            
Second Carthagenian War 218-201 b.C.            
Galician wars, campaign by Julius Caesar 58-51 b.C.            
Roman Civil War 49-44 b.C.            
Advance of the Huns 350-453             
Arab Wars 632-732            
Crusades 1097-1291            
Advance of the Mongols 1190-1297            
Founding of the Ottoman Empire 1302-1326            
100-year War 1337-1453            
The Sacking of Constantinople 1453            
Italian Wars 1494-1559            
Japanese Civil Wars 1560-1584            
Conquest of India by the Mongols 1503-1529            
Wars during the Reformation period            
30-year war 1618-48            
Manchu Conquest of China 1618-50            
Spanish campaigns in North and South Americas            
War during secession of Austria            
7-year War            
American Revolution            
French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815            
Wars of Independence in Latin America 1808-28            
Wars for the unification of Italy 1848-1866            
American-Indian wars            
American Civil War 1861-1865            
European colonialist wars in Africa, Asia, Pacific 1870-1945            
Franco-Prussian War 1870-71            
Most significant wars of the 20th century            
  0 1 2 3 4 5
Russo-Japanese War 1904-05            
Mexican Revolution 1910-20            
WORLD WAR I            
Russian Civil War 1918-22            
War between Italy-Ethiopia 1935-36            
Spanish Civil War 1936-39            
WORLD WAR II            
Chinese Civil War 1945-49            
Liberation wars against colonializations 1945-99            
Arab-Israeli wars 1947-82            
Cold War  USA - Russia 1948-91            
Korean War 1950-53            
Vietnam War 1961-75            
Northern Ireland 1968-98            
India - Pakistan (Bangladesh War)  1971            
Vietnam - Cambodia War 1978-89            
China - Vietnam War   1979            
Afghanistan war against the Soviets  1979-89            
Iran-Iraq war  1980-88            
War on Falkland Islands 1982            
Grenada - American invasion 1983            
Panama - American invasion 1989            
Persian Gulf War  1991            
Bosnia   1994-95            
Rwanda Burundi   1993-94            
Civil war in the Congo 1994 +            
Wars in Chechnia   1994, 1999+            
Civil war in Sudan 1983+            
Terrorist war by Al-Qaeda 1992+            
Kossovo   1999            
American military operations in Afghanistan   2001+            
American military operations in Iraq 2003+            


Translation: KN                                               

Article published in English on: 13-3-2014.

Last update: 13-3-2014.