Religion is seen as part of the national and cultural identity of most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and this is especially true of Islam. Muslims believe that religion is the greatest value they have. Since its beginning in the seventh century Islam has represented the beginning of a great civilizational project. The Middle East, North Africa and Andalusia became a global center of civilizations for six centuries, evidenced during this period by great civilized cities such as Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Kairouan, Fez, Cordoba and Grenada.
Christians also share the same feeling in the countries of the Levant—Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan—considering that this land is the historic cradle of Christianity, where Christ was born, lived and preached. ِ
The Jewish people also believe this: We find Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, and the historical characteristics of the Jewish religion, also in Palestine.
While the world sees religion as a culture, the Middle East considers religion to be its most important historical treasure, and the most important reason for its propagation in the world, spiritually and socially.
To Mecca or Jerusalem, and without exaggeration, Christians and Muslims in America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa live in the spiritual glow of the prophets of the Middle East, specifically with Mohammed, Jesus and Moses, peace and blessings be upon them.
I hope this beginning is helpful in clarifying the role of religion in peace in the Middle East and North Africa region.
But does religion really offer peace to this region?
Unfortunately, we have to admit that the current scenario does not favor this vision. In the region there are furious wars that have not stopped for a hundred years. Unfortunately, the religious sense is present behind these wars, be they between Arabs and Israel, between Sunnis and Shiites, or between fundamentalism and secularism. That's what makes everything more complicated.
In order not to be frustrated and hopeless, we need a broader perspective: The scenario was the same during the Middle Ages in Europe, where religion was used as an instrument of war, both in the Crusades and in the religious wars between Protestants and Catholics. This lasted for many centuries, but this dangerous disease was fully recovered and defeated, and the mosques and churches of Europe once again became centers of love and peace.
It is this that leads us to speak clearly and deeply about the generous efforts made by intellectual and religious leaders to spread meanings of peace and love in society and to confront hate speech.
In Islam, peace is one of the names of God, Glory to Him:
. يا أيها الذين آمنوا ادخلوا في السلم كافة
"O you who have believed, enter into peace completely and do not follow the path of Satan."
He made peace God's way against violence, which is Satan's way.
And in another verse:
Whoever says to you, "Peace be upon you," is a Muslim.
ولا تقولوا لمن ألقى إليكم السلام لست مؤمناً
"And never respond to anyone who greets you by saying ‘PEACE,’ ‘You are not a believer.’"
He explained the difference between a believer and an unbeliever: the peace greeting. So when you raise your hand in the peace greeting, you are a Muslim, and the difference between Islam and unbelief is the difference between peace and war.
There are two main causes of war in the Middle East: misinterpretation of religious texts; forcing people into war through conscription.
With regard to the first point, we think that the texts of religion came with love and that the misinterpretation of the religious text is what made the texts serve war, a phenomenon that exists in Islam.
The solution, in fact, is to support the wise interpretation of the religious text in the face of the extremist interpretation and to confirm that all the texts of violence arose in self-defense.
This is explained by the noble verse:
وقاتلوا في سبيل الله الذين يقاتلونكم ولا تعتدوا
“And fight those who fight you, and do not transgress.”
Not only in Islam, but also Old and New Testament religious texts were used to incite hundreds of thousands of warriors from Europe to attack the Islamic East under the title of Crusades in defense of God, but this issue has completely changed nowadays, since a different interpretation of these texts has been adopted, which no longer constitute a threat to peace.
As for the second point, its main reason is the compulsory military conscription imposed by law in the Middle East, which gives dictatorships the right to force people to fight in any wars the dictator wants.
The details of religion's role in the peace-making industry are many, but I would like to focus on one contribution to the peace-making industry, which is the human right "to rebel against war," and that is one question that I hope our honorable conference will discuss with depth and responsibility.
It is one of the most important human rights, which I have presented at dozens of conferences and sent in special studies to the United Nations. This is originally a great ambition, which I hope will interest everyone who is interested in human rights.
Human rights are a blessed human achievement that humankind has achieved since the dawn of history. Civilizations and philosophies from all the nations of the earth participated in its formulation, until its proclamation on the happy 10th of December 1948, when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While the document has fulfilled many of the aspirations of people who have long suffered from oppression, abuse and injustice, it would be incorrect to consider it an infallible text. We have to recognize that this is a human endeavor that requires constant review and correction to ensure that it achieves its purpose.
The example presented here is another aspect of the shortcomings in the human rights document, since the document did not refer to the human right to rebel against an unjust war, the combatant's right to rebel against war if, in his point of view, it was unfair.
Unfortunately, in all the laws of the world, a soldier who rebels is treated as a traitor, which has led many legal systems to classify his actions as high treason.
Laws often fail to protect soldiers who refuse to fight in wars they deem to be unjust and morally wrong. For example, [the American boxer] Muhammad Ali was not convinced of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and refused to participate. Despite his being a world hero, American authorities stripped him of his world title and imprisoned him until the end of the conflict.
People continue to be forced into wars they don't believe in, and thousands of people in the Middle East continue to be forced to fight wars under political dictators, becoming victims of conflicts they don't support. Unfortunately, they often cannot revolt against these wars. This is the case of the wars in Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Syria, where there is no party to protect them from the hell of war.
What if the warrior has the right to rebel against an unjust war?
The question that arises in this context is: Who would determine the nature of the proposed war, and whether it is just or unjust?
The answer is: Justice demands that the real stakeholder in deciding this war be the combatant who pays the price for this war and pays with his life.
The decision has to be made by the soldier, who must not be dragged into a war he never believed in.
Someone said to me: Then the warrior will always say, I am not convinced of the war, and he will be protected by the law, and then the wars will end, and the great national interests will fall to the ground.
I said: So what? Ending wars is exactly what humanity needs.
Does the decision of a war really reflect the true will of its warriors?
It is time to state clearly that the true interests of a nation are protected by peace and national laws, not by war. It must be recognized that war is not a solution to any problem and that fighting fire with fire only leads to destruction. Rather, the path to resolution lies in diplomacy, peaceful dialogue and a commitment to achieving lasting peace.
When the dictator knows that the decision to oppose the declaration of war is a human right, he will rearrange his calculations and find a way to protect the country without resorting to war.
When are we going to produce an adequate mechanism that makes refusal to participate in war a sacred human right?
The decision to participate in war is the objective equivalent of the decision to participate in death, so how can we talk about human rights if the right to refuse is taken away from human beings and is the property of the dictatorship?
My aspiration is for the United Nations to create a body dedicated to the prevention of wars and the protection of courageous individuals who refuse to participate in wars. This body must ensure that these individuals have decent living conditions, are protected by the judicial system and have their dignity preserved. Essentially, it must work to isolate those who seek to start new wars against human rights.
I believe this goal was a direct objective of Father and Mother Moon, the founders of this global organization. Father Moon hoped to protect from harm those who refused war; he also hoped that the world would look upon them with respect and protect their rights.
In Islam, peace is God, and God hates war:
كلما أوقدوا ناراً للحرب أطفأها الله
“If you want peace, work for justice."
As for dictators who incite war, it is believed that God puts out the flames they light.
طوبى لصانعي السلام فإنهم أبناء الله يدعون
And at the call of the Lord Christ he said: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.