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Violence in the Name of Religion

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Turkish Cultural Center-Syracuse, in collaboration with Interfaith Works and Peace Islands Institute held the second Abraham’s Table panel on ‘Violence in the Name of Religion’. Three panelists, each representing one of the three Abrahamic Religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) continued to analyze the theme in search for answers to some of the key questions taken up during the panel: What should be a multifaith response to killing in the name of religion? What should be a religious person’s stance toward violent acts conducted in the name of religion?

The event was held at St. Lucy’s Church in downtown Syracuse. Participants attended the Soup Supper first, and then attended the panel.

Dr. Miriam Elman, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, approached the issue from the Judaic perspective. In her remarks, Dr. Elman emphasized that none of the religions were immune to extreme violent groups but what mattered was the reaction of other believers to the violent acts conducted in the name of a particular religion. That is why, she stressed, Jews, Christians and Muslims need to stand for interfaith dialog against violence.

Dr. Anthony Bartlett, founder of Wood Hath Hope Bible Study Community, analyzed the topic from the perspective of Christianity. Dr. Bartlett began his remarks by citing a Muslim scholar and preacher, Fethullah Gulen, as an example of being 100% Muslim and promoting nonviolence. Dr. Bartlett referred to two stories in Bible, the story of Cane and Abel and the story of Joseph to emphasize that violence was always there. He reminded the audience how Prophet Joseph forgave his brothers, and stressed that we need the spirit of faith, the spirit of power that will help us forgive, that will help us empty our hearts of hatred now.

The Muslim point of view was offered by Dr. Ahmet Celenli, Muslim Chaplain at the University of Rochester. Dr. Celenli pointed out that we needed to refer to the main sources of Islam, the Quran, hadith and sunnah, in order to understand Islam’s point vis-à-vis violence. He noted that God created human beings as his representatives on earth. Dr. Celenli underscored that there was no place for violence in Islam and whoever perpetuated violence in the name of Islam was twisting the truth. “Islam is a religion of balance, not of extremes”, he added.
A vibrant question and answer session followed the panel discussion.

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