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Professor discusses role of religions in peacekeeping

| Friday, February 23, 2018

Kwok Pui Lan, professor of theology at Emory University, addressed the role of religion in peacekeeping processes across the world in as part of the Saint Mary’s Endowed Spring Lectures Series on Thursday.

Pui Lan began her lecture by talking about when she met the Dalai Lama 25 years ago, who said everyone has a role to play in creating a climate of genuine peace. However, there is a continuation of conflict and hostility between religions, as highlighted by the media, Pui Lan said.

“Recent attacks in New York, London, Brussels and Berlin highlighted our awareness of the role of religion in conflict,” she said. “Although the spotlight has been on Muslim extremists, it is important for all of us to remember that religious extremist of other religious traditions have also caused oppression and threatened peaceful coexistence.”

Pui Lan said Christianity also has its humanitarian failings, such as the colonization of the Americas. When referring to modern day Muslim culture, she said terrorism and peace come from the same place.

“A tiny minority of Muslim extremists should not be taken as representative of the whole tradition of Islam,” she said. “There are many Muslim leaders and organizations working tirelessly for peace.”

Although it is sometimes very challenging, gaining an understanding of other cultures is crucial to creating peace, Pui Lan said.

“We cannot wait until conflict or violence have occurred before we commit ourselves to to dialogue and mutual understanding,” she said.

Pui Lan said Christians in America are privileged because of their large numbers in the United States. This is detrimental to the practice of peacekeeping because it allows for ignorance and fear of other beliefs and cultures, Pui Lan said.

“Because of Christian privilege, many have insufficient knowledge of the beliefs, values and practices of non-Christian religions,” Pui Lan said. “Many Christians still harbor elements of Christian or religious superiority and look at other religions with suspicion and discontent.”

It is important to keep in perspective the many historical faults of the Christian church and recognize that no religion is without its faults, Pui Lan said. Christians must be aware of their prejudices, she said, and embrace the differences between religions.

“Christians especially need to learn from others’ traditions if we want to embrace our religious neighbors and work with them in solidarity,” Pui Lan said.

Pui Lan read verses from the Quran and said just as Christians practice what they learned from the Bible, the vast majority of Muslim people practice peace as taught in the Quran. Likewise, she said, both the Quran and the Bible have also historically been used to justify violence.

Regardless of a country’s religion, across the world women and children are still targets of violence, Pui Lan said, so it should be everyone’s goal to break religious barriers and free those who are persecuted.

“Many women work very hard to form their own movements and institutions to find spaces to promote peace,” she said. “One of the tragedies of war is that of children and young people being recruited as soldiers. Therefore the participation of young people in peacekeepers is important.”

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