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Verbum et Ecclesia

On-line version ISSN 2074-7705
Print version ISSN 1609-9982

Verbum Eccles. (Online) vol.32 n.2 Pretoria  2011 



Religion and violence in a globalised world



Wolfgang HuberI, II, III

IFellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), South Africa
IIFaculty of Theology, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
IIIFaculty of Theology, University of Heidelberg, Germany





Violent religious extremism is seen as one of the mega-problems of the 21st century. This article - based on a key lecture at the conference on 'Violence in a democratic South Africa' at the University of Pretoria and the David de Villiers memorial lecture at the University of Stellenbosch, both held during August 2010 - critically discussed the interaction between religion and violence in our present-day, globalised world. Three different propositions on the relationship betweenreligion and violence were scrutinised. In countering the proposition that religion, or more specifically monotheism, necessarily leads to violence, it was argued that violence is not an inherent, but rather an acquired or even an ascribed quality of religion. The second proposition that religion leads to non-violence was affirmed to the extent that religions do provide a strong impulse to overcome violence. However, they also tend to accept violence as an inevitable part of reality and evenjustify the use of violence on religious grounds. The third proposition was regarded as the most convincing, for it argues that the link between religion and violence is contingent. Some situations do seem to make the use of violence inevitable; however, religions should refrain from justifying the use of violence and maintain a preferential option for nonviolence.



Full text available only in PDF format.




The research for this text was made possible by the hospitality and inspiring atmosphere of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in the first months of 2010. I am grateful for the intensive debates on this text at the University of Stellenbosch on 06 August 2010, under the presidency of Prof. Dirk J. Smit, and at the University of Pretoria on 10 August 2010, under the presidency of Prof. Etienne de Villiers. Another version of this text was presented as the Bucerius Lecture at the German Historical Institute in Washington on 24 June 2010 - and subsequently published in the Bulletin of the GHI47(Fall), 51-66. I am grateful for the hospitality of this institution as well.

This text includes research presented already in a lecture at the University of Mainz, and published as 'Religion, Politik und Gewalt in der heutigen Welt', in K. Kardinal Lehmann (ed.), 2009, Weltreligionen - Verstehen, Verständigung, Verantwortung, p. 229-251, Verlag der Weltreligionen, Frankfurt am Main. My special thanks go to Karl Kardinal Lehmann for his invitation to address this issue.

Finally, I gratefully acknowledge all help in the preparation of this publication, especially that received from Prof. Etienne de Villiers, Prof. Hendrik Geyer and the external reviewers and editors of this journal.

Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this paper.



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Wolfgang Huber
Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS)
Wallenberg Research Centre, Stellenbosch University
Marais Street, Stellenbosch 7600
South Africa

Received: 02 Aug. 2011
Accepted: 27 Sept. 2011
Published: 18 Nov. 2011

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