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Religion and Peacebuilding - Assignment

conflicts, explore how

conflicts, explore how religious education situates itself within the “4Rs”. Self-Reflection As a Nichiren Buddhist and member of SGI-UK, education and self-improvement is one of the foundations of my spiritual belief. Study, in terms of studying the religious learnings of our faith – the Lotus Sutra, the Gosho, which were letters written by Nichiren to his followers, and the writings of the current and former Presidents of Soka Gakkai and the SGI - is one of the “Three Practices” adherents should carry out on a regular basis to develop and strengthen one's faith. However, secular education also has a very important role in our practice, in enabling us to make the very best of our own lives and contribute to society to the best of our abilities. It is not simply the accumulation of knowledge that is important, but the application of it to create value in society 1 . As such I am aware that I view education as vital, and religious education as something that improves the lives of others. It is clear, however, that religious education has been frequently used to cause harm and foment violent conflict. R. Scott Appleby's seminal work “The Ambivalence of the Sacred” contains an entire chapter dedicated to the what he calls “Violence as a sacred duty”. In summary, he views religious violence coming about at the point where religious extremists use religious teachings to galvanise religious, or ethnoreligious, actors into violent conflict against a perceived enemy 2 (Appleby:1999). I must, therefore, be aware that my view of religious education as always being a benign force may be at odds with much of the evidence I will be examining. Secondly, in light of my own religious persuasion, I have carefully chosen a definition of religion to reflect the fact that some religions, including Buddhism, do not have an all-powerful god as their 1 “Persons merely excelling in such areas [as book learning and technology] are nothing more than component parts of a colossal mechanism of the state and society. Truly desirable people of ability are creative people who untiringly pursue lofty ideals, who have rich individuality and who can make free and effective use of their knowledge and skills." (Ikeda:1968) 2 “Religious violence occurs when extremist leaders, in reaction to perceived injustices in the structural environment of the society, successfully employ religious arguments designed to mobilize religious (or ethnoreligious) actors to retaliate against their enemies.” (Appleby: 1999, p.282) 2

centre of focus. As such, a wider definition of religion has been adopted. Definitions “Religion/Religious” Harrison, in her 2006 paper “The pragmatics of defining religion in a multi-cultural world” highlights the issues in defining precisely what “religious” means. As such, any of the scholarly definitions is problematic, but for the purposes of this assignment I have chosen the definition formulated by anthropologist Clifford Geertz as being, in my opinion, the closest to an allencompassing explanation of what “religion” means across different societies and cultures: “According to Geertz, 'a religion is: 1) a system of symbols which acts to 2) establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by 3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and 4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that 5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic” (Geertz:1973, cited in Harrison:2006) Extrapolating from this definition, “religion” in the context of this assignment means an organised set of beliefs, symbols and rituals that have been adopted by a community as an explanation for “life”, and which incorporate codes of behaviour which must be adhered-to. Implicit in my interpretation is the notion that religious leaders cloak themselves with the authority to determine the correct interpretations of the codes of behaviour and moral codes and can be considered to be important local actors in civic society, of the kind identified in the introduction. “Peace” What “peace” means is the subject of many volumes of scholarly works. However, I have chose to adopt Webel's concept of an “Imperfect Peace” or “Strong Peace”. Webel acknowledges that continuous, absolute peace in the world in which we live may be an unattainable goal 3 . He 3 “Given the history of the recent past and the current parlous state of our world, one might understandably be tempted to be sceptical about the prospects for enduring peace on earth in an era (error?) of potential instantaneous global war with weapons of mass and vast destruction. But it is worth recalling that other political ideals once thought unachievable also came to pass. It took centuries, even millennia, to outlaw slavery and legitimize human rights. It might take 3

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