“The Frightening Return of Religious Wars” | History News Network

“This horrible discord, which has lasted for so many centuries, is a very striking lesson that we should pardon each other’s errors; discord is the great ill of mankind; and tolerance is the only remedy for it.” (Voltaire speaking on the long history of intolerance within the Christian world, Philosophical Dictionary)

As someone who has spent years studying religious and ethnic conflict, I have  watched the current ascendance of violence and intolerance with much sadness. Every week I have a new story from around the globe (Syria, Israel, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, even Europe along with many other examples) to share with my students. By now they’re probably tired of the depressing news, but these stories are relevant to the twentieth-century horrors that we are reviewing in class. Will we ever learn?

The idea that toleration was a virtue was a hard-won lesson of the wars of religion that engulfed Europe in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation. Unfortunately, it is not a lesson that has taken hold completely even in the West. Despite the many factors that have contributed to the rise of violence, it is the spirit of intolerance that is fueling the violence and hatred. This is why Mustafa Akyol has called for  “A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration” (in honor of John Locke’s famous Letter Concerning Toleration. Unfortunately, it is a value that takes years (as the Western example shows) to cultivate.

Read the entire article here: History News Network | The Frightening Return of Religious Wars

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