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Religion, violence and "holy wars"

30-06-2005 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 858, by Hans Küng

The dangerous threats to world peace unquestionably pose challenging practical questions that are not easy to answer. Beside the need for a religious reinterpretation in the spirit of peace, peaceful conduct must also be taught and practised.


Hans Küng
is professor emeritus for ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen.During the II Vatican Council he served as theological counsellor. 

The author analyzes the impact of religion in current conflicts throughout the world. The main focus lies on the monotheistic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which have recently been reproached for potentially fostering the temptation to resort to violence. The article focuses on this accusation and departs from an analysis of the concept of “holy war” in the three religions. The article concludes with setting out a pragmatism of peaceableness highlighting that wars in the twenty-first century can neither be regarded as just, nor holy nor clean and that absolute pacifism will not only be politically impossible but might as a political principle even be irresponsible.  

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