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Listen beyond the horror of religious violence

By Frank Flegel


REGINA — Religious terror is not new; it’s intrinsic to religious practice and belief and you have to listen beyond the violent actions to understand what is going on. That is one of the themes in a presentation to the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) held here July 19 - 22 at Luther College, a federated college of the University of Regina.

“You have to listen to the other,” said Dr. Volker Greifenhagen, professor of religious studies at Luther College, “instead of only to your anger. Dive deep for root causes.”

Professor David Goa of the Augustana Campus University of Alberta, Camrose, Alta., said something similar in his presentation: “You need to try and hear what is going on in the human heart underneath all of that.”

Their presentation was titled Listening in the Face of Religious Terror. It was one of several workshops available to about 150 people who attended the four-day NAIN gathering.

Greifenhagen gave a history lesson on violence in religion beginning with the “murder” of Abel by his brother Cain and continuing through to the present.

“Religious change is accompanied by violent political upheaval,” said Greifenhagen, referring as an example to the Reformation which he said was accompanied by a 150-year war. “Is religion the root cause or the means?” questioned Greifenhagen

Goa talked of religious relationships and social justice. “My concern is that often we reduce religious relationships to social justice and the problem with social justice is the way in which we understand justice and social,” he said in an interview with the PM following the presentation. “My point is that there is more to human life than the way in which we normally understand justice.”

Goa said in his tradition of the Christian East justice flows from mercy, not the other way around. “Kyrie Eliason, that wonderful Greek phrase that remains in the Latin liturgy, the root of that word is in the olive tree, it’s in oil, it’s anointing oil, it’s healing things. It’s not just getting your fair share, it’s healing things.”

“Where in violence can we stop to talk,” asked a questioner, “when I get a gun in my face because of who I am?”

You can’t do much at all with that person “with that kind of mental illness.” said Goa.

“Those things are produced exactly to make you feel that way,” said Greifenhagen. “If you don’t try and listen beyond the horror that’s been raised in you then the terrorists have won so to speak because they’ve been effective.”

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