SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina — International leaders within the Catholic Church gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia, to discuss the consequences of the First World War, particularly its effect on terrorism and religious violence.
Convened by Oasis, an international organization seeking to foster greater dialogue between Christian and Muslim communities, the June 16-17 conference holds the theme of “The Temptation of Violence: Religions Between War and Reconciliation.”
Commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of WWI in 1914, the conference is being held in Sarajevo as a reminder of where the war officially began with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sofia.
Although focusing on current instances of interreligious violence, the conference will serve as a re-reading of the consequences of World War I, which served as a monumental event not only for Europe, but also for the Islamic world.
Bringing about the end of the Ottoman Empire, an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader referred to as a caliph, the First World War also brought about the birth of political Islam, Arab nationalism, the strategic centrality of oil and the first “genocides.”
In light of this perspective, participants are exploring the nature and challenges of war with an eye to transform conflict into peaceful dialogue.
An important point of reflection is on how the period inaugurated by WWI became characterized by contradiction, first looking to how there was a calling into question of war in a radical way that had since been unknown at a religious and secular level.
On the other hand, participants are discussing how it was an age of great persecutions (Armenians, Assyrian Turks and Greeks were systemically eradicated from parts of the Ottoman Empire) and when the classic understanding of war was gradually replaced by terrorism.
Regarding the topic of religious violence, conference attendees will discuss how, despite the fact that religion was not a strong factor in World War I, it eventually led to later conflicts amongst minorities, such as with jihadism in the Middle East and in Africa.
They will also discuss how religiously motivated violence has now generated suspicion of the faiths in West, particularly of the monotheistic faiths, which are accused of being inherently violent and intolerant.
A final point conference attendees will speak of is the war in Bosnia, which lasted from 1992-1995 and which was also fueled by both ethnic and religious dimensions.