[FOUNTAIN]Religion and warfare

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[FOUNTAIN]Religion and warfare

A few days ago at a pub in Berlin, I was chatting with a middle-aged man who said he was interested in Korea. We talked about North and South Korea and then turned to religious issues. When I said that Korea had nearly equal numbers of Buddhists and Christians, he asked why religious conflicts, common in other countries, rarely occur in Korea. He seemed unconvinced when I said that some religious fanatics caused problems, but not serious ones.

No religion teaches discord and conflict. Love in Christianity is equivalent to mercy in Buddhism and peace in the Islamic world. Still, the world has experienced enmity and war in the name of religion. It is a historical irony that many religious wars were crueler than other types of wars.

The longest religious war in history was the Crusades. Pope Urban II's campaign to reclaim the Holy Land, Palestine, prompted a series of wars that continued from 1095 until 1270 with seven invasions by the Crusaders. All Europe sent troops to the bloody battlegrounds to fight the Turks and Arabs, but the Crusaders failed to recapture the Holy Land except for a short time during the first campaign. As a result, the pope's power waned and the Middle Ages in Europe came to an end.

The biggest religious war in history was the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) between Catholics and Protestants. The war also involved fierce struggles for land between the Holy Roman Empire and feudal lords. The region that is now Germany suffered severe damage in the war; the population nearly halved. The empire was broken to pieces, and Germany did not reunify until the late 19th century.

Thucydides of ancient Greece realized early that history repeats itself. As soon as an ideological war ended, the world seemed to return to religious wars again. There are religious conflicts going on in many parts of the world today. The United States, the leader of the war against terrorism, insists that it is not a religious war or a war against the entire Muslim world. But no one can deny that the war is religious in its nature.

Amid a hostile religious atmosphere, it is meaningful that Roman Catholic Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan gave a congratulatory address on the 100th anniversary of the Buddhist leader Cheongdam's birth. Reconciliation between religions begins with acknowledging other religions.

The writer is Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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