Interfaith Youth Core
Picture religious violence. What images come to mind? A plane crashing into the World Trade Center on 9/11? A videotape confession by a suicide bomber?
The perpetrators of religious violence are masters of marketing. They want you to see them commit acts of violence, and they want you to associate it with their religion. In fact, the violence is in many cases simply an excuse for the image. The goal is not the murder of a few, it is the poisoning of many with the pictures of violence, with the ultimate hope being the incitement of a religious civil war in cities like Baghdad.
Now picture interfaith cooperation. Did your brain-screen go fuzzy? I wish interfaith images came just as readily and were just as clear as images of religious violence. In fact, I believe one of the reasons we lack a strong, cohesive interfaith movement is because of the absence of such clear visual reference points.
But there is cause for hope from, of all places, Northern Ireland. When I visited Belfast last year, an official told me that bombs used to go off so frequently in the city that people wouldn’t even look up from their newspapers. The tension was still thick between Protestants and Catholics; the situation, he told me, could well go either way.
It looks like Northern Ireland chose the path of peace. The murders of two British soldiers and a policeman last week – the types of acts that previously burned hateful, sectarian images into people’s minds – did not widen the faith divide in Ulster, it actually brought them together.
A community that has seen thousands of deaths over several decades of faith-based civil war, instead saw (as the New York Times here described it) “sworn enemies (filing) into a provincial church on Friday to mourn as one … Some who were there said that never in Northern Ireland’s modern history had there been quite such an improbably gathering of old foes.”
Old IRA guys mourned with diehard unionists. There were silent vigils held in Belfast and other cities around Northern Ireland. The Catholic priest who delivered the eulogy at the funeral said that an attack on the police (once a hated institution amongst the Catholic population) amounted to “an attack on the whole population of Northern Ireland.”
The images from Belfast, and what I recently saw in Bombay Revival, are images of hope. I hope they burn inside our brain as deeply as the pictures of religious violence.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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