Religious Intolerance A Bloody Scar In The Human Experience
By James Donahue
The horror story about a
rampaging mob in Kenya that murdered and burned 15 women accused of witchcraft then moved from house to house, torching village
homes, was just one more chapter in the bloody history of religious intolerance.
While the news reports were
somewhat vague, there is little doubt that the hatred that sparked that deadly raid leading to the killings had its roots
in Christian dogma that teaches “believers” to avoid anyone that practices acts of sorcery and association with
familiar spirits. Such people are considered “an abomination” to the God of the Old Testament, and thus to all
who follow the teachings within the Holy Bible.
As Kenyan writer Martin Kimani
explained the power of the church among the illiterate people: “Millions of Kenyans sway to the power of the spirit.
We bewail the presence of evil spirits and deadly witchcraft. We pray for angelic rescue and for mountains to be moved through
faith. We see children possessed by demons and others by God. We speak in tongues and crawl on our bellies in the grip of
an otherworld that for moments is as real as the one we live in physically.”
Superstitious natives, spawned
by stories passed from household to household, blamed neighbors of casting spells that brought hardships on their own lives.
Elderly women known to have certain “abilities” as seers and healers now were being blamed because certain children
in the area were having difficulty in school, or another neighbor's cow mysteriously died.
It was told that a “death
list” was found in a school in the Kisii Central District, containing names of alleged witches living in the community.
When it came, the swoop by the vigilante group Sungusungu brought an orgy of killing in at least three villages. When it was
over, an estimated 15 people, mostly women, were dead. They were either burnt to death or cut into pieces for participating
More than 50 homes were torched,
some of the people living in them were unable to escape and burned alive while trying to hide from the mob of some 100 raiders.
In his commentary, Kimani
wrote: “It must take a powerful conviction to be willing to kill, one so logical and inexorable that the killer is willing
to forgo the biblical commandment to love his neighbor as himself. He is seemingly transported to a plane of understanding
and action that allows, nay perhaps even demands that he act in ways that he would normally consider to be horrifying and
Indeed, the bloody church
inspired crimes of history, including the Salem witch killings, the inquisition, the murder of Joan of Arc, and even the contemporary
Iraq war pitting Christians against Moslems, have their roots in religious intolerance.
The horror stories of Catholic
priests and even protestant ministers who rape young children, the serial killers like John Wayne Gacey who raped and murdered
young men in the name of Christ, the Texas mother, Andrea Yates who drowned her children in the bathtub so they would not
grow up and lose their chances to go to heaven, are all examples of people following an ancient, outdated and very wrong spiritual
That the Irish Catholics
and Protestants waged war against one another for years, as did the Christian and Islamic residents of Croatia, the Moslems
and Jews in Palestine, and Taoists and Buddhists in China, the Hindu and Moslem people in India and Pakistan, and now the
Christians and Moslems in Iraq, are all radical examples of a world gone haywire due to religious intolerance.
If religion was to have been
a means for us to find God, and to learn how this God would have us live full and rightful lives, how can it be that we have
so many different religions that are in such conflict with one another?
Perhaps it is time for religious
leaders from around the world to sit down together and collectively consider this as an international problem that must be
in some way fixed. We suspect there are many areas in which the teachings of Mohammad, Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna are more
in agreement than their followers might think. What would be wrong in placing an emphasis on these similarities, and setting
aside the differences in the interest of world peace?