Recent news reports about Turkey’s movement into Syria have reminded me of the history of religious conflicts and wars. From historical accounts, we know that people of faith have been involved in warfare and religious oppression as victims and instigators for centuries.

The Old Testament presents the struggles of the Hebrew people to protect and advance their monotheistic religion.

The Bible includes many accounts of God’s people using violent means to combat enemies and to protect their beliefs. I will note one of the many accounts about these struggles.

Young David gave his reason for fighting Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.” David used violence to defeat the enemy and honor his God.

The New Testament emphasizes the violent consequences in spreading Christianity. Jesus was condemned by those who feared his power, and he was falsely accused and convicted for his words and deeds.

The disciples and early Christians faced oppression and persecution as recorded in 2 Timothy 3:12-15, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Many people accept wars and conflicts as inevitable. It is defended in the just war concept which sanctioned the use of violence if conducted properly and for good reasons.

It might be helpful to review the history of this concept. From early times to the present, the just war theory was presented by many ancient cultures. When this concept is considered, people should delve into major points beyond the willingness to fight.

Confucius who stated that war could be considered but only as the last choice. The Mahabharata, an Indian epic, described the way that warriors should carry out their duties, but that all involved should hold out hope for reconciliation.

Augustine presented several reasons for war with national defense as one of the just causes. He also provided a rational process for decision-making. Before entering any conflict, purpose and goals should be established and diplomacy pursued aggressively.

On a personal note, the decision to use physical force or deadly combat of any type should be difficult especially for religious people.

Pages of history books are filled with accounts of religious conflicts, wars and persecutions.

In 1099, Christian Crusaders seized the Holy City of Jerusalem. During this period, two different religions suffered losses and both were responsible for violent acts.

Over the centuries, Christian church leaders were willing to persecute fellow Christians for heresy if they expressed different beliefs. Many conflicts were engendered by the Reformation. The Thirty Years’ War from 1618-1648 involved Catholic-Protestant violent conflicts in many European countries.

The horrors of the Holocaust brought shameful violence to the Jewish people.

We have visual knowledge about the devastation of the Bosnian War, the Rwanda Civil War, and the Sri Lanka Civil War.

The continuing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan seems unending. Israeli-Palestinian conflict incites violence.

In war-torn Syria, the invading Turkish troops are bringing death and crippling circumstances to people of different faiths who are caught in the crossfires of power and hate.

We face danger from countries such as North Korea, which is known for religious oppression.

Researchers have recorded that the number of religious-centered conflicts and oppressive behavior has increased in recent years.

Online resources provide numerous hotspots of persecutions and violence against people of faith across the world.

In many countries not involved in warfare, violence incited by religious intolerance has increased. People have been murdered in their places of worship.

Other people are humiliated by hate-motivated words such as the chants of marchers in Charlottesville.

I repeat my call for investigations into the reasons for the rise in extreme physical violence and deep-rooted hatred. For now, I pray for those who have diplomatic power to solve conflicts. I pray for peaceful means to stop violence. People have the right to live in peace without the fear of violence and hate-driven words. The right to express religious differences should be protected and honored.

Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal. Email him at

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