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Global Violence And Its Religious Dimensions: An Interview With Dr. James K. Wellman, Jr.


With the recent developments in Syria and Iraq--and the power of ISIS increasing--more and more questions about extremist religious-based violence arise.

KMUW's Aileen LeBlanc discussed some of the issues with a scholar who will be in Wichita to present a program on the subject this weekend.

"One of the things that we found is that, when state power and religion connect and become partners, they become, in the hands of certain people, incredibly and extremely violent," says Dr. James Wellman, who is chair of the Comparative Religion Program in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

"We've seen this with Osama bin Laden. We've seen this now with ISIS and with other groups that in the name of God, whatever the God is, it doesn't have to be Islam, this God demands absolute loyalty. And for anyone who is not loyal to that God, the human leader has the right to kill and slaughter. There is nothing within Islam that says that is right or good, but that is exactly what is going on."

"What we studied is that this kind of religious violence is across time and tradition, from the very beginning of civilization, people have used religion, of whatever type, to do this kind heinous violence."

"So I think this is just one more example. It's a terrible one. It's a heinous one. Most Muslims I know are condemning it stridently. What's different about Islam is that there is no central official to say 'stop this' or 'no, this must end.' Its leadership is really decentralized so you have these groups that pop up and claim that they're the new caliph for the 21st century."     

Credit http://nymag.com/
Video posted by the terrorists - with journalist James Foley

Dr. Wellman also talks about our country's moral dilemma over whether to intervene in foreign conflicts.  

"Brother's Keeper is the Jewish and Christian trait that calls all Jews and Christians to be their brother's keeper. So the U.S., which is majority Christian, tends to try and project their religion on the state, as though the state should be the Brother's Keeper and where does that end? Right now, I think one of the great presidential debates will be 'where do our obligations end?' And I think a lot of people want to pull back from our obligations overseas and yet we have bases everywhere now. The ironies of this are just unending in the sense of our military and our religious, ethical and moral traditions are mixed so deeply now, that we don't know how to differentiate any more."

To listen to the rest of the interview click the listen button above. 

Dr.Wellman's talk will take place on September 6th at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church. It will be followed by an interfaith panel discussion.

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