Assimilation or Separatism?
Tue 5th Feb 2013
The problems facing Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religions today appear to be firmly rooted in their ideologies of identity. By this I mean that if one only claims an identity through a religious belief then there is little chance of a peaceful society.
Difference has always been at the root of all quarrels between people who inhabit a particular geographical space. The difference could be attributed to physical appearance such as the colour of one's skin, but it is more often attributed to one's religion.
I remember as a child listening to my Welsh grandmother talking about most wars being initiated by religious groups either overtly or in many cases, covertly. She cited examples of these wars going back to the Crusades and coming through the centuries to The Great War and the Second World War.
Her theory was based on the following logic: Had wars been fought honestly, in so far as any war is honest, those declaring war would have had the courage to say that in fact the war was actually about the theft of land, natural resources, ethnic supremacy or religious fervour. Years later, I remember thinking that she was quite astute for someone born in Edwardian Britain with all its colonial aspirations still intact. Her father had been involved in the British Raj in India and had returned to Wales somewhat disillusioned with the system and confined to a wheelchair. She was a good listener and enjoyed hearing his political views.
As a child and adult I would listen to her stories with great interest too. I wonder what she would make of the world situation now.
The 2011 census has now been collated. Facts and figures are being released to the public. Apparently, 13% of the current population was not born in Britain and less than 40% of people living in the country claim to have a faith.
Differences in religion have always been the most important aspect of any discussion regarding beliefs held by different people. It appears to be human nature to highlight those things which not only make us different but which somehow, are also held to make us superior to the 'other'.
If we look at the basic tenets of Christianity we are exhorted to 'love thy neighbour', to 'not covet thy neighbour's ass', to 'honour thy mother and father' etc. In other words, follow the Ten Commandments. How many of us follow these to the extent that we can be called 'good' Christians?
Islam requires the same care for those around one. In simple terms, the much misunderstood and misinterpreted tenet of 'Jihad' requires good Muslims to strive to live a good life. Many of them do indeed do this on a daily basis.
Judaism requires Jews to follow the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses and to abide by a covenant that they would acknowledge God and obey his laws. In return, He would acknowledge Israel as his Chosen People. They also believe that goodness and obedience will be rewarded and sin will be dealt with by God's punishment after death.
All religions require respect and acceptance of others. However, despite years of so-called enlightenment, the bravery of many Saints and Martyrs and believers like Martin Luther exposing the moral corruption of religious leaders, we still feel that religious difference is important.
Religion for many people in the West has become inessential to our daily lives and those who attend a mosque, church, synagogue or other place of worship will often see themselves as 'better' than the rest of us. Apparently God has chosen some of us for his kingdom and the rest of us, regardless of our good deeds or our not being of a particular faith, will remain outside of his blessing.
If one accepts that God has either 'chosen' some or has given some a State of Grace (predestination) it surely behoves them to have considerable responsibility toward the rest of us.
Looking back through history, however, those who believe they are chosen by God have quite a poor track record of respect and responsibility. Puritans in America for example set about the systematic theft of land from the indigenous population as well as the destruction of the indigenous people themselves. All because God was supposed to have given them Grace. It is quite amazing that God apparently gives Grace to one group of people wishing to dispossess another group of people!
Spanish Catholics managed to destroy both the Jewish and Moorish population in Spain and then went on to destroy the Mayans of South America when they 'discovered' the New World.
Britain, through the creation of the Empire, stole natural resources, depressed local culture and stole land under the guise of bringing Christianity to the populations of Africa, India and many other lands.
Jewish Zionists are following a similar policy in Palestine even now. In addition, Britain, France and covertly, the United States, are even now interfering in Africa supposedly to prevent Al Qaida from imposing Muslim rule.
Strange how the discovery and exploitation of abundant natural resources can prompt a modern Crusade!
Each of the above examples appears to be based on the fear of 'difference' and as a result the perpetrators remain unassimilated. Fear of assimilation seems to be deeply embedded in religious and ethnic psyches. Nowhere does it appear more noticeable than in Jewish and Christian Evangelical Zionism.
In Jewish Zionism that 'difference' is maintained as something which places them above and beyond the population of Palestine and any other country.
Difference for American Christian Zionist Evangelicalism is based on religious-racism with unconditional support for Israeli Zionism. In 2012, a report previously published in Europe and picked up by the Israeli media claimed that Europe is suffering from 'Muslim assimilation'. How odd that European Muslims work hard to be a part of the countries they live and work in but are considered by this report to be 'dangerous' to the fabric of European culture.
I would argue that it is when a group or person actively refuses to assimilate that the real danger arises. I cite the example of Breivik in Norway who acted violently to try and destroy the multicultural diversification of Norway's society.
I guess what I am trying to say is that despite our religious, ethnic or cultural backgrounds we are ALL God's children. If we take the time to see the person rather than their religious or ethnic background, and if we take the time to pause from our pursuit of wealth and power, we could significantly enhance the growth of peace in the world. Let us stop the policy of deliberate ostracism of some peoples and discourage the dissimilation of others and recognise the humanity in us all.
Stop using religion in all its shapes and forms to justify genocide, ethnic cleansing and other hateful acts which stem not from God but from man's base instinct of greed.