In order to understand tensions and problems between differing cultures, religions and political systems, it is necessary to analyse and study the background and basic assumptions and inherent beliefs between them, writes Hildegard von Liechtenstein.
It is primarily Christianity, among the major monotheistic religions, which allows for personal doubts in belief and does not consider these a major sin or crime. Faith is considered a grace by the Lord. Sin contravenes basic rules, mainly the Ten Commandments, complemented by the rule of love and the demand to forgive. Freedom of the conscience, love thy neighbour, acceptance of doubt and rejection of revenge are the main characteristics of Christianity.
Islam, unlike Christianity, lays down firm rules rather than freedom of conscience. Love thy neighbour is secondary and is replaced by an easier obligation of charitable donations. Religious doubts are not widely acceptable.
Considering Islam’s firm rules, it would appear logical that a purely Islamic governed state would find it difficult to accept separation between religion and the state and would be more likely to punish followers of other religions and prosecute supporters of other beliefs. It may see intolerance as a duty.
This leads to persecution of other religions, particularly Christians, in Islamic governed countries. Sudan and the Islamic State, formerly Isis, and others are good examples.
This does not mean that countries with Islamic majorities and rulers were, or are, necessarily intolerant. It is only if governance is fully subject to Islam that it can become religiously radical. The Ottoman Empire and Morocco were among other countries exercising tolerance. Christian countries and churches also misused religion as a pretext in conflict or power-play and became intolerant. Christians realise this and today feel ashamed.
Separation of religion and state has a Christian basis, as love and pardon require tolerance. The Bible quotes Christ saying, ‘Give the king what is the king’s and God what is God’s.’ This is a clear statement separating religion and state.
States separated from religion can prosecute for religious reasons too. Communism is totally atheist but claims to be the only way for ‘salvation’ on earth. It has prosecuted Christians and other religions such as Islam.
However, the total indifference towards belief and an exaggerated, nearly intolerant, requirement of ‘tolerance’ in today’s Western world has resulted in Western cultures being unable to defend themselves against strong and aggressive systems or movements. One of these, providing misguided values, is radical Jihad.
Western indifference towards Christianity and its values is probably the main cause of a ‘value vacuum’. The increase of atheism is transforming into a weakness in Western society and politics.
There are examples of Christian representatives misbehaving and such high profile misbehaviour in the media enhances indifference and negative attitudes towards the Christian faith or serves as an excuse for it. This damages respect for Christian values.
One consequence of the lack of values in increasingly secular Western countries is, that young people looking for values in life find a home and a way to salvation in extremist movements such as jihad.