Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Religion and Terrorism

On Tuesday, September 11th, the entire world was thrown into mass chaos after the coordinated acts of terrorism in the United States. According to media reports, "Muslim extremists" are responsible for these crimes. I think that the pairing of the word, "religion" with the word "violence" in this way, and having this association broadcast around the world, is very unfortunate for the people of the world who believe in any God/religion. For those people living under cruel and harsh circumstances, belief in God or Buddha helps make the decision between right and wrong and also gives a reason and hope for living. Religion has also helped their survival and development. On the other hand, for those who are seen as "evil" or "wrong", the religious movement can be a threat and even becomes the object of oppression and obliteration. What happened to Jesus and his followers 2000 years ago is a prime example of this.

Many people living in a complicated real world, look for simple, easy-to-understand principles and answers or solutions. Religions that provide this, at times, increase membership and strengthen their movement and can become great political powers. However, even then, society does not actually become simple and easy to understand. Nevertheless, if religion tries to control society, they must color things in "black" or "white." If not, then the doctrines cannot explain reality. In this way, a forced/strained explanation of reality is born, and, in order to fully support that explanation, manipulation and falsification of facts, unconsciously at first, but eventually consciously, is done. And, when this type of "religious outlook on the world" itself becomes the object of blind faith, reasons to fight and destroy in the name of God or Buddha are created.

So, when it appears that religions employ violence or destruction, the cause lies not in God or Buddha, but in the deficiency and negligence of the people who fail to understand (or don't try to understand) the complexities. Consequently, we should not address this destruction and violence with the same deficiency and negligence. In other words, exhibiting a simplistic "black-and-white" picture of the world and indiscriminately obliterating and destroying that which is branded "evil," simply creates more violence out of violence. Those who blatantly disobeyed the rules of the international community and committed acts of terrorism should be punished according to international rules and regulations, under legitimate means and measures and mutually agreed upon proceedings. Unfortunately, however, in today's international society, there are areas without such legal framework and there is not total agreement on the means and processes. With this unprecedented incident, I fervently hope that the world will come to a stronger agreement--socially, legally, morally and religiously.

Lastly, to all those living in the United States, particularly to the citizens of New York that helped me personally in many ways when I lived there a couple of decades ago, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences, and, at the same time, pray that you not, in reacting to the destruction and violence of this horrifying tragedy, use the same destruction and violence to take revenge on innocent spiritual brothers and sisters.

- MT

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