This chapter analyzes a wide range of African customs and legends. It demonstrates that African traditional religion offers notions of a thriving spirit world which provides “sacred warriors” ritualized protections and martial enhancements when defense of community is urgent. African traditional religion remains primarily an African phenomenon and, as a result, is tightly associated with the cultures and realities of the continent. The role of religion in motivating violence and its role in carrying out the violence are addressed. The Lord's Resistance Army has revealed that a spiritual agenda and rhetoric is not enough to win the support of the people. A proliferation of news stories and images from across Africa of persecuted albino communities, victims of ritual sacrifice or magically empowered rebels might give the impression that traditional religion and violence are more intertwined than ever.
This chapter discusses the history of Buddhist traditions and violence, concentrating on the scriptural justifications, symbols, and actual manifestations of violence. It covers Theravada (Path of the Elders), Mahayana (Great Vehicle), and Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle). Theravada scriptures present on occasion a categorical imperative to avoid violence. Mahayana scriptures condemn violence and hold murder as an unwholesome act (akushala). Vajrayana doctrine is perfused with texts and commentaries that reject the use of violence. The chapter then outlines the elements of violence with regard to war, punishment, and social control. Among the various examples in the scriptures lies one from its founder Siddhattha Gotama, who abandoned his own familial allegiance for the sake of reconciliation.
Christopher C. Taylor
This chapter, which concentrates on the violent imaginaries that informed the reports and deeds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, reviews the perseverance of pre-colonial notions of a sacred king whose “wild sovereignty” and inability to promote the flow of imaana earns him fateful sacrifice. The term imaana denotes a supreme being and, in a more generalized way, a “diffuse, fecundating fluid” of celestial origin whose activity upon livestock, land, and people brought fertility and abundance. As imaana's earthly representative, the king channeled fertility to the rest of humanity. The chapter also discusses symbolism of the sovereign's body and its implicit link with the process of liquid flow. Habyarimana is an inadequate conduit of imaana and thus not a worthy king. He is the antithesis of Ruganzu Ndori.
Bruce B. Lawrence
This chapter explores the role of violence in Islam, specifically contrasting Islam in 611 with the Islam associated with terrorism on 9/11. When several tribes attempted to draw from the treaty that bound them to Muhammad, Abu Bakr opposed them in what became known as the Ridda wars. The Ottomans succeeded in invoking Islam, and also the doctrine of jihad. Islam became an explicit ideology and building block of public prestige for the newest Turkish Muslim Empire, and also became an idiom of protest against the gradual contraction of internal and external trade. The association of Osama bin Laden with al-Jazeera proves to be almost as significant as his decision to wage jihad. There are many ways to connect Bin Laden to the early generation of Islam. Bin Laden's legacy is one of deviance and damage rather than persistence and profit in the cause of Islam.
This chapter investigates the theological justifications for violence within the sources of the Christian traditions, and also reports the symbolic representations of violence in the history of the tradition. It then presents a consideration of some specific issues that have provoked Christian people, to condone or even resort to violence while believing themselves faithful to Christian teachings and values. The chapter introduces the theological justifications of St. Paul, Jesus of Nazareth, just war, Crusades, inquisition and heresy trials, and missionary movements. Christian people have acted in ways opposed to violence, and have also warranted violence over the centuries by referring to scripture and by developing theological interpretations. Additionally, they preserve connection to its history of involvement of violence in a variety of symbols, rites, and rituals. In general, Christian people are moral agents who have to make decisions about how to act and how to act religiously.
Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart
This chapter examines the associations between religion and violence. The Bellonese case reveals that the ideology of honor drove the pattern of vengeance killings; that this ideology primarily pertained to men and their agnatic kin; that it was supported by appeals to gods and ancestors; and that peace rituals did not produce permanent effects. In the Fijian case, it is shown that war-chief and land-chief were ideally balanced with each other, the one standing for external violence, the other for internal peace. In Bau, this balance was upset and inverted due to the sea-going war-chiefs who came to engage a pre-eminent position by terminating the land-chiefs. In the New Guinea Highlands societies, a higher development of an ideology of wealth used is observed as a life-giving replacement for persons, whether for bridewealth payments, payments to allies, or compensation to enemies.
Ron E. Hassner and Gideon Aran
This chapter reports the traditional violent themes in religious Judaism as they seem in sacred texts, rites, customs, and chronicles, and provides a survey of the components of Jewish religion relating to violence while evaluating and illustrating their development and influence through history. It then describes the violent implications of two religious elements that are distinct and central in the Jewish legacy: Mysticism and Messianism. The case of Jewish violence is especially complicated, since Judaism is characterized by a close relationship and a substantial overlap between religious association and ethno-nationalist ties. The essence of Judaism became the interpretation and application of the Bible to historical realities. The Kabbalah presents historical reality as a mirror and integral component of a larger cosmic drama. A distinct minority of Jews use their own victimhood as a license to inflict violence upon others by way of compensation or revenge.
Cynthia Keppley Mahmood
This chapter, which deals with the Sikh tradition within the context of the shifting sands of India's religious history, also discusses the reverence for certain Sikh gurus as being linked with martyrdom and violence, and relates this history of religious violence to the militant drive for a Sikh homeland—Khalistan—in recent decades. Sikhism is among the youngest of the global religions. The struggle for Khalistan was a resistance movement against the perceived injustices of the Indian state and a political movement aimed at sovereign rule, but it also provided an existential means of being a Sikh, independently of secular instrumental political goals. A conflation of “militancy” with “violence” in the Sikh tradition has resulted in a widespread misunderstanding of Sikhi in the modern world, has added to the unfortunate “Sikhs as terrorists” propaganda, and has distorted the theological message of the tradition. Many Sikhs have turned to their Holy Book to try to figure out when the kirpan is to be appropriately returned to its sheath.
Sexuality is a domain of experience that has been variously described as embodied, deeply personal, intimate, ecstatic, and even sacred. Yet, precisely because of some of these qualities and the emotions associated with them, it is also a domain that entails not only pleasure but also the possibility of violation, even terror. It is a ground on which wars are fought (including intrapsychic, familial, social, political, and military). This chapter explores multiple aspects and causes of sexual violence, in particular interrogating the saying from the rape crisis movement: ‘Rape is about power, not sex’. Additional statements will be proposed, including ‘Rape is about power, and sex’; ‘Rape is about power, using sex’; and ‘Rape is about power, gender, and race’. The chapter concludes with an ethic of sexual justice that addresses the ethics of sexuality and of power, drawing on a Trinitarian theology that emphasizes relationality and abundant life.
This chapter explores how a certain anxiety around violence might be rendered as integral to the imagination of an ethical life in Hindu texts and practices. It also describes some contemporary examples of violence and non-violence, and addresses how new forms of collective life such as the imaginary of the nation can shape the expression and experience of violence. The figure of the animal is significant in understanding violence. The chapter argues that the link between sovereignty and the subjugation of violence is the dominant theme of any story of sovereignty. It is observed that Draupadi and Gandhari became the causes for the destruction of the Kshatriyas and of Krishna's dynasty, respectively. The voice of the woman becomes the voice that questions the vanities of Dharma.