Religion and Violence in a Globalized World

Jun 24, 2010

11th Gerd Bucerius Lecture, at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, Ballroom, Washington DC | Speaker: Wolfgang Huber

The Eleventh Gerd Bucerius Lecture was delivered by Bishop Wolfgang Huber, who spoke on the topic "Religion and Violence in a Globalized World." Huber has been a leading representative of the German Protestant Church for the last two decades. Following a twenty-year academic career that included professorships in Marburg and Heidelberg, he served as Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lausitz from 1994 to 2009. From 2003 to 2009, he was chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the governing body for the Protestant Church in Germany.

Huber discussed the relationship of religion and violence on a broad historical, ethical, and theological canvas. After introductory reflections on the definition of violence, Huber discussed three possible propositions on the relationship of religion and violence: the thesis that religion leads to violence; the thesis that religion leads to nonviolence; and, finally, the thesis that religion and violence are linked in a contingent manner. In his analysis of the first thesis, Huber rejected the notion that monotheism leads to violence; he also pointed out that religious identity is only one factor among others in most recent conflicts. In his discussion of the second thesis, Huber provided a critical history of the Christian churches' repeated failure to live up to the renunciation of violence preached in the Sermon of the Mount. He concluded by endorsing the thesis that the relationship between religion and violence is a contingent one and left his listeners with a number of concluding reflections, including the statement: "Religions can cooperate in order to promote peaceful coexistence and to ban the use of violence as much as possible. This effort necessitates a self-critical evaluation of violent traits in the history of the different religions, the elaboration of religion's specific contributions to the future tasks of humankind, and working toward a consensus in basic ethical questions."

The full text of Wolfgang Huber's lecture will be published in the Fall 2010 issue of the Bulletin of the GHI.