Both/And: Religion in Iraq

Again today, religious people were targeted in violence in Iraq. According to the New York Times, 5 Iranian pilgrims were killed as they traveled to holy Shiite sites. Last week, churches were bombed in Baghdad. Tanenbaum Peacemaker Canon Andrew White leads St. George’s Church there and, on Monday, he blogged that seven churches had been attacked and several of his friends had lost their lives. Among these was his fellow advocate for peace, Sheikh Harith Al Obeidi.

Places of worship have been victimized because they are powerful places, because they are integral to a community. And yet, many would point out, religion has also been on the attack in Iraq. This ambivalence can tend to chaos if it is not properly named and understood.

As Canon White says time and again, “If religion is the cause of the problem is must also be the cure.” It is not one or the other. It can at times be both.

As change follows the withdrawal of US forces, he advises that governments – not just religious leaders – must realize the curative potential of religion. It is wasteful and foolish to think that religion is only a victim or only a threat.