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Pray for mideast

Oct. 13, 2000

Holy war's basis conflicts with main religious ideals

For decades, the Middle East has been a turbulent area, with sporadic violence spurred by political unrest and territorial disputes. Now, serious violence has surfaced again, with the apparent terrorist attack on the American ship the U.S.S. Cole, reports of Iraqi troops on the move and reports of the Israel firing anti-tank rockets at Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

While the causes of the problems in this area are complex, one reason behind the violence is that the Muslims and the Jews both claim rights to the same sacred lands. Sadly, these two religions offer peaceful messages, and at the same time, are being used as a basis for fighting and violence.

It's contradictory that people fight in the name of religion, but even more contradictory that people cause harm or even death to others because of their religious beliefs.

The unfortunate by-product of these 'holy wars' is that people turn away from religion and question the purpose and legitimacy of these faiths.

As the current conflict escalates, we should take a moment to realize how fortunate we are to live in a country where the religious beliefs and practices of all faiths are respected. The United States was built on diversity of ethnicity and of religion, and to this day, we thrive on it. The majority of Americans probably can't fathom that the events in the Middle East could happen here.

Throughout history, political systems based on religion have never been successful because in many cases, they use violence to force the beliefs and acceptance of their religion on people. Government and religion do not, and should not mix. That's why we Americans deeply value the separation of church and state. The Middle East, specifically the area around the West Bank, is a mix of religions and of cultures. Because these two religious groups, Jews and Muslims, both claim the exclusive rights to the Holy Land, it seems that the conflict between the two faiths may never be resolved. And if the focus remains on earthly things, on property and land, instead of on the religious tenets of love and understanding, it very well may never end.

The Palestinians' and Israelis' personal faiths, the very cause of the conflict, are what can ultimately bring peace, once they step back and consider what their gods might have them do.

The groups should focus on their respective religions' messages that earthly things such as land don't really matter in this world. What ultimately matters is making sure that one's inner spirit is right with his or her god.

Say a prayer tonight, asking for the violence to end and for people to give one another the respect that each person deserves. In the end, all the killing and fighting over property won't amount to anything meaningful.

What will matter is how people chose to live their life, and whether or not people followed the teaching and values of their religions.