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Journal for Peace and Justice Studies

Volume 20, Issue 1, 2010

Patrick Henry
Pages 3-29

Religion For Peace
The Vietnam Years And Today

In this essay, I examine the religious peace activists during the war in Vietnam: Catholic (Daniel Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton), Jewish (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel), Protestant (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Buddhist (Thich Nhat Hanh) who, together with many others, constituted the greatest example of interfaith peace activism in our nation’s history. I extract from their writings principles that would enable us to create an interfaith peace movement today in a world desperately in need of such ecumenical activity. Recently the worldwide Muslim community has called upon Christian and Jewish clerics and scholars to enter into an interfaith dialogue with them for purposes of peace. “Without peace and justice between [our] two communities,” these 138 Islamic scholars and clerics wrote to their Christian counterparts in October 2007, communities that constitute 55% of the world’s population, “there can be no meaningful peace in the world.” Christian and Jewish religious leaders and scholars have responded with wholehearted enthusiasm to the Muslim initiative. Judeo-Christian reconciliation in the 1960s in the wake of the Holocaust, which accomplished what must have been judged impossible only twenty years earlier, should be the model used to bring together all the major religions in the present century. In a spirit of respect and reverence, trust and reconciliation, with recognition of the holiness of all the major religions and in opposition to exclusivist conceptions of salvation and without any desire to convert others to one’s religion, this Islamic invitation to dialogue and peacemaking must be vigorously pursued and developed within the communities of all relevant nations where interfaith groups must be established in mosques, temples, churches and synagogues, for teaching, discussion and joint good works in peace and justice activities.

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