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Does Religion Heal or Fuel Conflicts? A Review A common notion today is that religion fuels conflicts and violence.

The inter-religious violence of Eastern Europe, the Crusades (Muslim and Christian), and Ireland all serve as case studies for such arguments. Raymond Helmick (2001) challenges this very notion by arguing essentially that it is not religion that fuels conflict, but people who fuel conflict by their misuse of religion. Furthermore, Helmick addresses an important issue facing the Christian community today. Christians and disillusioned apostates often blame the Church or the clergy for not acting righteously and doing what the Church should do; however, as Helmick points out in the text, those very people who comprise the church and who complain have not taken action, or have not taken action in large enough numbers. Rather, it is not the Church that is to blame for inaction, but individuals. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, for evil to reign all it takes is for good men to sit back and do nothing. The strengths of Helmicks essay are many: With excellent and daring precision, Helmick cuts to the chase and questions, is it religion to blame, or is it mankind failing to implement the tenets of a religion that mankind claims to embrace? Moreover, Helmick challenges readers to look at the actual tenets of each religion and how they address forgiveness and reconciliation. Another strength of the Helmick text is that it [gently] challenges those who would complain against the inaction of the church to act, dismantling hypocrisy that has cropped up around many of the great tragedies of this century, when the finger pointed at the clergy should have been pointed instead at a reflection in a mirror. The one great weakness of Helmicks text is with regards to the Dhimma. In my opinion, Helmick glosses over what was actually not quite as free as he implies. The conditions for both Christians and Jews under the Dhimma were far less wonderful and far less peaceful than implied. More information about this, with an excellent compilation of primary resources, can be found in The Dhimmi, by Egyptian author Bat Yeor. (1985) Helmick, R. G. (2001) Does religion heal or fuel conflicts? In R. G. Helmick and R. L. Petersen (Eds.), Forgiveness and reconciliation: Religion, public policy, and conflict transformation. (pp. 81-95). Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press. Yeor, B. (1985). The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.