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Understanding peace through religion

Savita Nair (left), Don Aiesi and Helen Lee Turner discuss religions. (photo by Melanie Brannon)

Savita Nair (left), Don Aiesi and Helen Lee Turner discuss religions. (photo by Melanie Brannon)

What do the Hopi Indians, Irish Catholics and Indian Sikhs have in common?

They were all discussed during a February 3 lecture titled “The Role of Religion in Peacemaking” that featured three professors from the Religion, Political Science, and Asian Studies departments. The professors explored three different groups/areas: Hopi Native Americans of the Southwest, the diverse South Asian continent, and the conflicting Catholics of Northern Ireland and Irish Protestants.

The audience of about 100 Furman students and Greenville community members listened attentively to the circumstances surrounding each situation. Don Aiesi, Ph.D., professor of political science, discussed the tensions between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“The divide is so complete,” he said, citing examples from the research he did with students during a 2013 May X. “It has gotten to the point where religion is losing its force in Ireland.” The May X group found that there was little support from Ireland to be united with Northern Ireland. He described the walls separating the Protestant side of the town from the Catholic side, the regiously segregated schools and the lack of interaction between the two faiths.

However, not all religious groups have a deep divide. Savita Nair, Ph.D., associate professor of Asian Studies, mentioned that in India, the national calendar includes Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and many other religious groups’ holidays. The country is composed of various religious backgrounds.

While peace was mentioned in some form for all of the groups, no religious group seemed to be more peaceful than the Hopi tribe of the American Southwest. Helen Lee Turner, Ph.D., of the religion department described their judicial system as being based on Navajo views and focused on how to restore a community after crime. The Hopi tribe even refers to this court as a “peacemaking court”.

Each of the professors emphasized the fundamental importance of “knowing and understanding your religion”. By doing such, we can come to understand the importance of respect and the responsibility we have as members of the religious community. This is the most fundamental way of enabling religion as a peacemaker in society.

The event was sponsored by Greenville’s Interfaith Forum which seeks to educate about religious communities as well as promote respect and understanding. More information is available on their website.

Last updated February 10, 2015
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director