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Battle for the Kingdom of Heaven continues

By Sheree Joseph - posted Thursday, 10 August 2006


The film The Kingdom of Heaven inspires thoughts on war and the role religion plays. With the recent attacks on Lebanon, the call for peace is more imperative than ever.

Lebanon is a land of paradise for so many, the land where Jesus turned water into wine. In a twist of irony Israel has turned the waters of Lebanon blood red. So the cycle of death continues.

Throughout history, men have sworn revenge for attacks which have ended in bloodshed. Since the beginning of time men have sworn allegiance to kings.

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Among these men, Gods played a crucial part in these wars. Yet how does one God instruct its people to kill that of another God? It doesn't make sense to the believer today. It probably didn't make sense to the believer back then. But as always, an excuse for war was needed. As swift as the blade which cut through the hearts of men, such an excuse was born. Religion became the scapegoat.

In a slightly altered way, that excuse continues today. Maybe we can revel in the fact that people are a little wiser having learnt from the mistakes of the past. Maybe this is why we no longer follow presidents and leaders so blindly. Maybe this is why people protest on the streets.

But for every dissident, there's someone willing to accept war. This may be a result of widespread propaganda. What does this propaganda teach us? That the "enemy" is being told to kill us by their God? That the "enemy" hates our way of life and therefore straps bombs onto themselves? Or maybe we learn that our God is the right God and therefore our actions are justified? To ease the pain of war, we're told that they are the enemy because they are enemies of peace. Therefore war is no longer about conquering land. It's about defence.

It's hard to know what's worse - that leaders can still get away with the meaningless killing of innocents or the fact not much has changed since the medieval ages. The means may be different but the outcome is the same with death following every recount of battle and war.

The crusades were not so different from the wars we see on our television screens. Although the courage of the men who took up the sword is of another kind to those who press buttons triggering the annihilation of whole cities. It was not easy back then when the casualties were guaranteed to be much higher on both sides despite swift victories. So the excuse of God may be more believable, but no less excusable.

Today there are no truces or terms agreed upon until the grounds are well and truly stained red. Ceasefires are called upon but are met with accusations of "idealism" for only an idealist would believe that a ceasefire can resolve tensions created by armies of God. Sometimes it's easy to forget which era we're living in.

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Once upon a time it only took two kings to prevent a war. War was never inevitable and never will be and the role of leaders gives testimony to this claim. Two kings had the power to say “yes” to peace. It only took one King to say yes to war and history would be written in the blood stains of the people. The authority of men in positions of power was never questioned, an authority often confused with that of God.

Hildegard of Bingen, a well respected Christian woman, was strongly opposed to the Crusades of her time. She was known for criticising the Pope for allowing priests and clergy to fight. She is said to have received visions from God. Yet her claim only went so far as to affect local religious issues. On the battleground, the men played out the final act both with their swords and with their decisions. To think that one man could have changed history makes you question the role of God. Even in the most famous of holy wars, it still came down to the acquisition of land and power.

How can religion play a role in war? Perhaps when religion is manipulated to suit greater purposes, it may play a role in the motivation for war. But it is hardly accountable for the devastation that follows war.

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About the Author

Sheree Joseph is an 18-year-old journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. Her grandparents migrated to Australia from Lebanon in the 1950s. Sheree is interested in religion, politics, history and human rights and speaks French, Italian and limited Arabic.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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