Concluding a Debate on Religion and Nationality.

The debate carried by the programme World Haveyoursay for two days was like an “informal” academic forum on the old question: which should come first religion or nationality? Religion marked the history of mankind. For Christianity and Islam, they shaped the world we are living in today. There were Christian and Muslim empires. They disintegrated but they left their religion implemented. For example the Othoman Empire shrank to become today’s Turkey. But Islam remained in parts of Europe, like Albania. The British Empire introduced its type of Christianity, namely Protestantism in many of its colonies in Africa and Asia.

During colonialism the fight for independence, for example, in Africa was based on nationalism as the colonies there wanted to forge a nation.
In the Arab world, religion was used to fight for independence as the indigenous population was largely Muslim, and the colonial power was Christian. This was enough to provoke resistance.

Today religion seems to surface as a power for political shake-up in many countries long after their independence. It was the tool of repression in countries like Afghanistan under the Taliban who imposed a restricted and archaic view of Islam. There was ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia where the Christians carried genocide against the Muslim Bosnians.

Today we have instances of Sunni Muslims Shiaa Muslims in Iraq who daily kill one another and who ironically condemn Israel killing of Lebanese and Palestinian people.

As a conclusion to the debate, it’s good to have a religion as long as it gives guidance but it should not lead to extremism. The lesson to be drawn from the history of religion is to consider religion as a personal matter; nations should find a framework to unite under respect and cooperation. Borders should be dismantled, be it political, cultural or religious. Everyone should see themselves as a citizen of the world, for which everyone should care. Then the dilemma of religion and nationality will be of secondary importance.

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