A public lecture by Professor Oliver P. Rafferty SJ Heythrop College, London University & 2012 St Thomas More College Chair in Jesuit Studies.
This lecture will look at religiously motivated violence in three historically conditioned phases and the attitude of religious authorities to them:
the Crusades, with emphasis on the first Crusade
the Church’s attitude to political violence in Ireland and
contemporary issues with Islamic fundamentalist violence.
The Crusades were undoubtedly blessed by the church, and mandated by Blessed Urban II, with the promulgation of an indulgence for those who ‘took the cross’. Individuals were in effect promised paradise for engaging in a war that had religious purposes and intent - the recovery of Jerusalem. This was the ideology, even if the results were different.
The church’s attitude to political violence in Ireland was more ambiguous. Nevertheless it ultimately supported the party of revolution, (at least by 1918) a party which manipulated religious imagery for its political ends - the ideas of self-sacrifice and resurrection.
The contemporary issue with Islamic fundamentalist violence raises a different aspect to the problem.
Since there is no centralised authority in Islam, the ability of individuals and groups to interpret sacred texts in justification of violence is given much greater scope, and therefore it could be argued that the ethos of the faith is such that political violence can be justified on the basis of God’s will, much in the same way as it was during the Crusades.
Is the result of all this to undermine the role of religion as an instrument of peace in the world, and therefore to give ammunition to hostile non-believers who assert that religion in itself is fundamentally a cause of suffering in the world?
These issues also touch on a broader problem within Christianity, and that is the problem for the state of engaging Christians to fight in war in clear defiance of the fifth commandment and the teaching of Christ about turning the other cheek - just war theory notwithstanding.
This lecture is presented by St Thomas More College, in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Studies at The University of Western Australia.
Cost: Free, but seats are limited. RSVP to [email protected]