Deal with violence by tackling 'justice issues'

An Egyptian fan holding a Quran and a cross at a 2018 World Cup qualifying football match against Chad on Nov 17.
An Egyptian fan holding a Quran and a cross at a 2018 World Cup qualifying football match against Chad on Nov 17. PHOTO: REUTERS

In his commentary ("Finding peace within the holy texts"; Nov 18), Mr David Brooks cited Jonathan Sacks' new book, Not In God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence.

Sacks argues that much of the violence that we see stems from the justification people appropriate from their own holy texts, and he recognises the role of religion in approaching conflicts between individuals, communities and nations.

He calls for fresh interpretations of holy texts, and presumably, of all religions, and a new understanding of the way to confront violence and resolve conflicts.

Religions have influenced and caused the rise of secularism. It is not just holy texts that we have to consider but also the secular teachings of those who have abandoned institutional religion.

It is, therefore, necessary that we take into account both religious and secular traditions as we confront violence.

To appeal to love is not just emotional sentimentality. It is not only the relationship between individuals. It calls for justice, too, and to discern whether there is mutual benefit.

Therefore, the discourse on love must entail the recognition of just relationships and of equality in the partnership. Love can be jealous and selfish, and result in violence, too. Therefore, there must be love with justice.

When we move further to the wider community, we have to deal with the issue of peace and harmony. How do we maintain peace in our society and in our world?

Peace is not just an absence of war. Peace can be self-serving and benefit the privileged group to dominate. Again, there must be peace with justice.

In confronting religious and secular violence, it is essential to factor in the principle of justice. It is to discern the worth of every human individual. It is to respect the dignity of every religion, and the secular as well.

In Sacks' earlier work, The Dignity Of Difference: How To Avoid The Clash Of Civilisations, he wrote that "we must make space for difference... to understand that the unity of the Creator is expressed in the diversity of creation". 

We cannot approach violence by confronting it with more violence and find an uneasy peace.

We have to be involved in the justice issues of the lack of individual freedom, the inequality of socio-economic status and the depreciation of the value of human life, in order for us to co-exist and flourish in our globalised and pluralistic world.

Yap Kim Hao (Rev Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Deal with violence by tackling 'justice issues''. Print Edition | Subscribe