The toll of the savagely faithful and two historic new steps toward peace.
This article appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health.
The United Nations statistics are staggering. Since the end of World War II, when the UN was founded to “end the scourge of war,” armed conflict has claimed some twenty-seven-million lives. About 85% of these casualties were civilian; a large proportion of them children and the elderly. In the last decade alone, there have been more than one-hundred armed conflicts in seventy different locations representing every region of the world. In financial terms, war has cost the world $30 trillion in the past thirty years. Since the end of the Cold War, annual expenditures remain at about $840 billion.
Even more sobering is that while war is the antithesis of spiritual teaching in virtually every religious tradition, the UN reports that religion is a contributing factor in many, if not most, of these conflicts. In other words, bringing nations together can never be enough.
What to do? As Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations told religious leaders in Bosnia in 1998, “The problem is never the faith. It is the faith …