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UPF Report: Religion & Security

UPF Report: Religion & Security
Velma Anne Ruth - Tue Apr 09, 2013 @ 10:23AM
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As part of the Religion, Faith and Security roundtable hosted by Universal Peace Federation, the following paper was published as part of a larger report distributed to diplomats and scholars in 160 countries. The paper includes special quotations from Ambassador Muhammad Alhussaini Alsharif, League of Arab States. Universal Peace Federation has special NGO consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council. 

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Spirituality and Governance  


In consideration of the over 190 member states and associate members of the United Nations, international representation regards varying social implications of policy per country, and relative impacts on given populous and international relations. A people’s nation, whether governed by the people or strictly by the upper echelon, is dependent on the values to which the governance holds firm. At personal and strategic levels, those values have various roots, not withstanding history, cultural mores, or spiritual principles.  


Approximately 85% of the global population is religious. Each nation varies in their dominant religion, religious mosaic, and approach to religious diversity. While subject to updated analysis and polling, the pie-chart below suggests that the three (3) top spiritual platforms in the world are Islam, Christianity, and the “non-religious.” Additional religions follow as Hinduism, Buddhism, traditional Chinese, Judaism, and other. In each religious group there are diverse religious sects, each maintaining different philosophies between them, while under certain umbrellas. With such a broad span of reference to values that promote varying rules of law, the spiritual diversification of our planet is bread with inherent conflict.   


To philosophically rise above all inherent conflicts of spiritual principle, one may approach policy “objectively”, in a macro-view and consider the high-level fundamentals of best practices in law, as they have local impacts on a nation’s “risk/need status” of health, social strata, labor, finance, industry, science and technology, communications, education, security, international relations, and beyond. The “decision-making” of governance and rule-setting of these policies has roots in the spiritual determination of how a nation’s management impacts the people, and how the country’s body reflects its national values. 


Consider the basics of universal values. Each spiritual group or nation has varying definitions of godliness, good and evil. Those behavioral and psychological rules bear influence on given laws and enforcement of those laws. These values impact strategies in negotiation, conflict resolution, justice, and ultimately, economics. 


However, given certain societies have greater or lesser access to education, science, and technology, those constituencies with lesser access are left with dependency on historical philosophies to guide the establishment, while are equally amendable to the offerings of academia and innovation to advance their societies. 


Science does not have a moral language, as it is rooted in evidentiary fact, which is “objective”. In contrast, spiritual beliefs and religious mores are philosophical, or “subjective.” For example, all people can agree that “the grass is green.” While Muslims and Christians may differ in their “belief” on the definitive divinity of Jesus Christ. By preserving religious analysis in the contrast between objective and subjective, the furthering of modern approaches through institutional developments and science may not necessarily be a threat to the spiritual make-up of any society, but rather spirituality may nurture the growth of a society under positive aspirations of a nation’s people and governance. Tactics of advancement are geared through language, where the deepening capacity for comprehension and development of strategic resources in varying industries and sectors provide applications that feed on inspirations towards a society’s future. At the highest level of global welfare, a government’s system and policies should be good for all. This is one planet, with one human race, where the global economy is instrumental in impacting multiple societies, and the capacity of a nation to thrive is inherent upon the welfare of its people. 


As a matter of philosophy, principle, and influence, religion and politics cannot be separated. However, in application of law and order, the separation of church and state maintains objective higher-grounds in the discourse of infinite subjective disagreements. A policy maker as an individual, or a government organization as an entity may be inspired by their spirituality, as religion feeds the secular, and does not control the secular. In the most diverse societies and governments, religion, rituals and scripture are preserved in the “personal” arenas of life, while resonating values embellish the given society. Hence, science does not have the moral language to force, but the governing bodies inspire their people with moral. 


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an objective standard which leverages diverse spiritual principles of wellness in society, for varying sectors of health, education, security, justice, and beyond, with complete respect to the religious mosaic of our planet and shared quests for peace. 


Ambassador Mohammad Alhussaini Alsharif of the Arab Leage offered the following quote from the Quran, reflecting also that God considers mankind to be one single human family by virtue of origin and birth. A family which was made divers in order that its members should get to know and understand one another as well as cooperate among themselves. 


"O mankind we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a females and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God have the become of the most righteous." (IL-13)


Please see below for additional quotes from religious texts, offering comparable subjective views in their common aspirations for peace:  


    • Islam: Not one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13
    • Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Matt 7:12, Luke 6:31
    • Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. The Talmud
    • Judaism and Christianity: Leviticus 19.18 Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them
    • African Traditional Religions: One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
    • Bahá'í Faith: And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 30
    • Zoroastrian Faith: Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others. Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29



Psychology, Intelligence and Reform  


The global community is facing a series of revolutionary waves between western and eastern hemispheres, that are challenging political climates amid struggling economies and horizons of brighter futures. The characteristic outlays of culture, subculture, social groups and individuals are not always transparent to international media, intelligence, or even local communities, setting boundaries upon that which is projected as change, and that which actually advances, for better or worse. 


Ambassador, Dr. Alsharif reflects on his 40 years of diplomacy, having been in contact with various cultures and been fascinated by the way various cultures conduct their business and affairs. He observed that differences do not come about because some people are good and others are bad, but different circumstances dictate different modes and ways of life. He found out that all of us, no matter how different we feel, are products of history and geography and in many cases destiny. 


As he traveled more, he grew more tolerant and came to realize that one basic element of tolerance is respect which entails many qualities. If you respect someone you will want to know more about him or her and you will acknowledge his right to have views not quite compatible with your own. If you respect a culture, you will grant it the right to evolve its own system of beliefs and values in its own way. Bu the end of the day you will accept others regardless of their religion, nationality or race. 


He reached the conclusion that each culture should be entitled to evolve its business and politics in the way it saw fit. He became conscious of the fact that none of us was consulted prior to birth about the region of the world we prefer to live in or what cultural background we would like to inherit. 


When a nation implores oppression and violence upon its own people, whether or not this violence is observable by the naked eye, or impaled upon foreign nations; such abuses can be categorized under four types of behavior: psychological, physical, sexual, and power. Psychological torment may be engaged as harassment, or propaganda. Physical atrocities are more obvious, such as regulated torture, murdering infant girls, or legalizing assault in certain circumstances such as against wives or children. Sexual abuse is not foreign to oppressive societies, such as rape in political prison, legalized rape against wives, or pedophilia. Abuse of power is more complex, varying in forms of harm that lend to the oppressors gain, such as in monetary, social, professional or operational. 


The quality of “abuse” is further evaluated with consideration of pattern, victimology, subjectivity, tactics of neglect, strategies of “dysfunction”, presence of addiction, and capacity for remorse. These psychological qualities are the predecessors of abusive behaviors, but are also visible in negotiation, conflict resolution, and policy development.    


Dependent upon the society, certain rules of law further any of the above acts, and do not consider them as abuse, but rather as justice. The notion of values then begs the question on the quality of justice in a given society, verses the capacity of individuals or communities to protect themselves from abuses. The capacity for a governance to reform its laws towards advanced treatment of its people is dependent upon those values, and so change may enable the above “abuses”, or may attempt to decrease said atrocities. 


As a matter of human security, international security, defense and diplomacy, there is a need to separate 'believers' from 'entrepreneurs of conflict', and regard the role of religious principles in mobilization of peoples. 

In the course of intervention, there are two (2) sets of three (3) fundamental categories of parties to consider. 


In terms of highly volatile militant groups or militaries, there are three categories that apply to both personnel and hierarchical leadership: 1. those who are not interested in values or politics but who simply seek employment and enjoy recklessness; 2. those who are more devout yet compliant and do not see other alternatives but may welcome them; 3. those who are highly devout and maintain committed authoritative directive on volatility without remorse. 


In terms of societies, there are three categories of response to governance, whether or not a respondent is inside government or is a civilian: 1. those who reject oppression or abusive tactics and may actively seek alternatives; 2. those who are compliant to authority out of need to maintain livelihood while may welcome alternatives; 3. those who maintain committed authoritative directive on oppression and atrocities without remorse. 


In terms of moderation and reform, those in categories 1 and 2 bear greater capacity for change or improvements given proper secured avenues, while those in categories 3 are exempt from opportunity for advancement. Categories 3 are not foreign to this framework, but rather target dissent and noncompliance in categories 1 and 2. 


Intervention may engage key ‘religious actors', people who are moved by faith that may fall under any category, while considering justice-based imposition on religious actors that exploit the intersection of religion and policy for the sake of volatility. 


Whether in western or eastern hemispheres, current global movements face a challenge of de-radicalization, which is in need of a sound intervention strategy that does not blame cultures or others philosophies, that diffuses conflict before conflict worsens, and is designed for positive outcomes. 


In the course of reform, the application of religion shifts from extremes towards positive efforts, moderation is empowered to combat extremism, and the extremist elements are directly addressed, while promoting higher-natures in the development of self both personally and spiritually.  


Employing principles of reform is diplomatic, as soft power alternative to military intervention. However, this course of diplomacy requires advanced intelligence measures, and work with non-state entities whom are often gravely endangered on the ground, and persecuted if merely identified. 




International Issues and Global Spread of Extremism 


In the course of diplomacy and international conflict resolution, certain debates have been incessant over decades, while centuries long trails of history threaten the perpetuation of increased issues. Over 70 years of history, the world has witnessed a new era of violence verses religious freedom. 


As Ambassador Dr. Alsharif reflects, some dialogues failed because these dialogs "attempted to fuse religions and creeds in a melting pot on the pretext of bringing them closer together. This is likewise a fruitless effort since the adherents of every religion are deeply convinced in their faith and will not accept any alternative thereto. If we want to succeed, we must focus on the common denominators that unite us, namely, deep faith in God, noble principles and lofty moral values, which constitute the essence of religions."


He is of the belief that ignorance, lack of understanding or not wanting to understand others rather than cultural differences are responsible for the many so-called cultural clashes. It is only through mutual understanding and respect that we can dispel ignorance, suspicion, and prejudice which today create so many dangerous attitudes and false perceptions. 


These times reflect the history of Christians in Europe up to the year 1517 AD when there was unified control, including over women’s dress and social standards. Then on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted 95 Theses against the corrupt sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church. Luther posted the theses in Latin and intended to start an academic debate. However, they were translated into German, quickly copied using the newly-invented movable type printing press, and wound up sparking the German Reformation. 


Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (95 Theses, 1517)



Northern Europe saw the need for reform, and after 100 years of war 1648 marked the development of western states. The response of Catholicism was to transition more into mysticism, while Jesuits developed universities. This level of war may not have yet been achieved in the Middle East, where politics also uses religion to advance something that has nothing to do with religion. However, extremist groups indigenous to the Middle East know no borders between eastern and western hemispheres, such as Hezbollah that has co-branded with Venezuelan Hezbollah. 


Iran and Israel, the two most diabolically opposed countries in the world withhold overwhelming similarities between their nations, religions and histories.The Jews of Iran have a history that begins over 2,500 years ago and continues through today. Famous figures in the Jewish Bible are cited as living in or traveling the areas of Iran. Also, religious studies convey reasons, as each religion prophesies the coming of the next prophet Mahdi/Messiah. There are similar descriptions of respective messiahs, including feminine leaders connected to the coming of the redeemer. Religious discourses also represent the similarities of both nationalities.


Throughout western institutions and leadership, there is a misleading understanding that the Middle East consists of a radical majority, while the populous is silenced by a minority of extremist forces who seek to establish more Islamic republics like Iran. The cultural realities exhibit a massive underground where true moderate Muslims endure strongholds of respect for religious minorities, and religious freedom is a shared principle among Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities alike, towards shared missions to institute and protect religious rights and secularism. The propaganda war is a double-edged sword to this effect, where regimes impose threats on their peoples in the name of religion, while reflecting a peace-loving tone to foreign nations. 


True, in the heart of Islam, whether Sunni, Shia, Sufi or other, there is a core respect for religious diversity, regard for Jews and Christians as family. However, complications compounded in well-financed propaganda war from both sides both challenge the Islamophobia that creates divides, and appeasement that furthers conflict. The question of a moderate middle ground is beyond Sunni vs. Shia, beyond terror groups verses states, but is a complex matrix of varying religious groups within those Muslim sects, and their political applications of violence, or peace (see Table: Islam and Conflict Matrix). 


Given the pie-chart on religion above, and remembrance of history, the Christian community also has its rhetoric of concern, and conflicts between Christian sects. For example, there are certain Christian believers that hold firm that anyone who is not of their own faith, such as Muslims, Jews, or not in agreement with their sect are “Satanic.”  This language is not dissimilar to the use of the term “infidel”, even if offensive behaviors are more volatile. 


Both Christians and Muslims are proactive in promoting their faith internationally, with use of missionaries in charitable causes, development of religious facilities, and distribution of religious texts. Both have a global enterprising strategy, and neither are foreign to conflict. The difference however, is a range between puritanical charitable interests as priority over religious, exploitation of charity to recruit religious followers, and use of religious developments to further global threats such as trafficking, espionage, or worse.  


In prayer to "God of malfeasance and benevolence", "even Satan does not want to be demonized". To “call upon the angels” of a higher self, the empowerment to rise above current assaultive tendencies gives way to betterment in society. 


In those organized religions that depend on scripture, it is the professional cleric’s responsibility to guide a congregation in interpretation, and comprehension of the word, as sacred, literal, metaphorical, or in a context of non-modern times. The manner in which these philosophies are adopted and implemented is reflected in the nature of a religious leader’s presence at a diplomatic table, in government, in a secular community, or otherwise. 


Bring to transparent discussion the applied use of religion in governance internationally, and the backing spiritual principles that guide policy. 


One of the most conflicted nations at this time is Syria. In certain Syrian towns where Assad's regime has lost control, local leaders refer to the Qu'ran, where they do not have other resources to refer to and are required to take quick action in restoring civilian order in as most peaceful way as they know how. 


In the United States, conservatives consistently reflect on the Founding Fathers and how the nation is rooted in Christian principles. At the same time, there is certain ambivalence to the role of Islam in the course of security, at times ignorance on the very definition of religious freedom, yet principles of “separation of church and state” can be used as a crutch. On these foundations, US policy maintains restrictions against participating in religious war, however exercises these principles in diplomacy. 


In Indonesia, a recent poll showed 61% of school students agree with violence for defending religion, while the Indonesian government’s objective is for de-radicalization. Indonesia is not secular, but is not religious government, rather spiritual and moderate. While the government explores means to teach critical thinking and overcoming radical influences, extremists target westerners, infidels, police, law makers, the anti-terror agency, and any obstacles to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state. 


No matter where religion is used as a tool to back-track against peace, the injection of religion into politics to control a people defies certain spiritual principles such as free-will and independent responsibility, and is central to tactics of religious-based oppression. 


Ambassador Dr. Alsharif suggests that one of the core issues is how values of religions are implemented into behaviors, and conflicts that arise through injecting politics into religion. That religious centers, such as mosques and the Haaj should not be a forum for politics. And that human rights and dialog are important in battling terrorism. It is not about one-country teaching another country what to do, but about empowering a peoples to take leadership upon themselves to create more enriching environment for their communities.


Further, the Ambassador suggests education at the earliest ages may teach human rights, civil society, freedom, tolerance, acceptance of others, not to disrespect any religion, and to nurture new generations. It could be one book, in 100-200 pages that would foster a universal curriculum, fostered by leaders of the mature generations, coordinated by young leaders, and then exponentially spreading positive impacts to new generations. 


The question remains: how to create more religious peace, how to address secularism with awareness of religious groups, and how to religious attacks in the promotion of dialog towards peace. 


The answer may be a matter of education, more work with inter-faith and faith-based groups, bringing fact out of mixed messaging, advancing intelligence, balancing representation of the peoples when their oppressors maintain the microphone in diplomatic offices, and furthering the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.. 





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