More to conflict than religious clashes

Hateful ideologies are easier to recognise in other peoples than in ourselves, writes Maurice Andrew.

Articles and reports in recent editions of the ODT describe murderous conflicts within countries.

These are sometimes described as ''religious'', but details given in the reports themselves demonstrate that many different issues are involved.

Patrick Mbugua and Daniel Ohs (ODT, 31.3.14) maintain that even genocide is driven by hateful ideologies, and they stress that a combination of factors lay behind the genocidal ideology in Rwanda: economic, social, and political crisis.

Gwynne Dyer also, writing on Nigeria (27.3.14), sees various factors working on each other: ethnic and religious divisions distorting politics and the economy.

From the article's content it could just as well be said that politics and economy distort ethnicity and religion.

There are also military issues: Dyer describes brutal army units as well as an extremist Islamic group involved in killings.

Military involvement is also an issue in the Central African Republic. A report (3.4.14) describes a president unable to control his fighters who kill, rape and loot, just as their opponents do.

Another issue is land: a further report on Nigeria (8.4.14) describes conflict between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers over land rights and sees other issues combining with these - access to public education and jobs.

After all the military, social, economic, ethnic, land, educational, and employment issues presented in detail, it smacks of a compulsory ''blame religion'' element when the report ends: ''The disputes often have a religious element''.

Well they may, but what is it?

To confine everything to religion does not advance a resolution of the complex issues involved.

Dyer's article does demonstrate one religious element: a Nigerian Muslim whistleblower on financial corruption was falsely accused of links with the extremist Islamic group, and many Nigerian Christians will believe anything about him, simply because he is a Muslim.

We are back to the hateful ideologies of Mbugua and Ohs with which we began: people hearing so much outrageous disparagement of other religious and ethnic groups that they believe it - and are sometimes prepared to act violently without considering all the issues involved.

But why am I writing only of Africa? When conflicts arise between Maori and Pakeha, each group often sees faults only in the other, and there can be considerable disparagement one of the other.

''Hateful ideologies'' may seem too strong to describe this, but it is easier to recognise them in other peoples than in our own.

It is almost uncanny how many of the issues described above for African countries apply to us, too. We also have our combinations of ethnic, social, political, economic, religious, land, education, and employment issues.

One way of avoiding hateful ideologies is to accept that a consideration of one issue in its relation to others leads us to new, more relational insights.

Indeed some people may find their religion becoming effective in such insights about others - and about themselves.

 - Maurice Andrew is an Opoho resident.

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