Baha'i News -- Easter 2002 filled with deadly irony

Easter 2002 filled with deadly irony

This is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of the man they call the Prince of Peace. As a religious holiday, it is rich in beauty, faith and hope, but also this year rich in irony. One has to retreat many generations to the Spanish Inquisition? the European wars? the Crusades? - to find a time when religion played a heavier role on the world's battlefields.

Palestinians and Israelis are closer to war than they have been in three decades, a fight linked to culture, land and history but also to passions born from different faiths. The world will be fortunate if Pakistan, which is primarily Muslim, and India, which is primarily Hindu, do not come to nuclear blows over a province each claims and religious beliefs each rejects. The Taliban leaders who pretended religion required them to kick women and girls out of the classroom; to torture them if they showed an ankle on the trip to the market; to strip life of music, art and laughter broke the already taut boundaries of religious perversion. The men who killed 3,000 on Sept. 11 thought they were serving Allah.

Christianity may not be implicated this time, but it hasn't spared itself the temptation to violence in times past. Ku Klux Klan members claimed biblical justification for what they did. Catholics and Protestants have fought each other in Ireland much of the past century. Muslims did not launch the Crusades; Christians did. Too many Christians looked the other way during the Holocaust.

Every faith has its own prince or princes to preach different theology but some common messages. Individual life is to be valued. It is a sin to kill the innocent. Peace is noble. And yet the French religious philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal probably had it right four centuries ago when he observed, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

But the opposite also is true: Men and women never do good so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. Think of an American Baptist minister named Martin Luther King Jr. or a Hindu leader named Mahatma Gandhi. Think of Mother Teresa and the prophet Muhammad and Jane Addams and Solomon and Baha Ullah, founder of the Bahai faith. Far ahead of his time, he preached a brotherhood of man, free from class, race or religious prejudice (and of today's wars). Think of Jesus Christ, the man who inspired this Easter Sunday.

These are the ones who got it right, and the Prince of Peace would find some affinity with each.

©Copyright 2002, Peoria Journal Star

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