Religious Conflicts Around the World

Joe Bara

8. listopada 2020.

The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The conflict in Northern Ireland, which has killed thousands, has political and religious roots that are centuries old.

Since the 12th Century constant revolts challenged the often brutal British rule of Ireland, climaxing in the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin.

It sparked a chain of events leading to civil war and partition of the island.

In the south 26 counties formed a separate state, while six counties in the north stayed within the UK.

Over successive decades the Catholic minority there suffered discrimination over housing and jobs, which fuelled bitter resentment.

In modern times the conflict is centred on opposing views of the area’s status.

Some people in Northern Ireland, especially the mainly Protestant Unionist community, believe it should remain part of the United Kingdom.

Others, particularly the mainly Catholic Nationalist community, believe it should leave the UK and become part of the Republic of Ireland.

Violence would break out between the two groups where walls ended up being built to seperate them in Belfast.

In the early 1990s negotiations took place between political parties and the British and Irish governments.

After several years of talks IRA and loyalist ceasefires held and in 1998 the “Good Friday” agreement was signed.

It set up a power-sharing executive, with ministerial posts distributed by party strength, and elected assembly.

The deal was backed by voters in referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic, which scrapped its constitutional claim to the north.

The Holy Land

Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine, and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.

Though both Jews and Arab Muslims date their claims to the land back a couple thousand years, the current political conflict began in the early 20th century. Jews fleeing persecution in Europe wanted to establish a national homeland in what was then an Arab- and Muslim-majority territory in the Ottoman and later British Empire. The Arabs resisted, seeing the land as rightfully theirs. An early United Nations plan to give each group part of the land failed, and Israel and the surrounding Arab nations fought several wars over the territory. Today’s lines largely reflect the outcomes of two of these wars, one waged in 1948 and another in 1967.

The 1967 war is particularly important for today’s conflict, as it left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories home to large Palestinian populations:

What makes things more complicated is the city of Jerusalem. It is a holy city for all three Abrahamic religions and contested between the Jews and Palestinians over who should control it.

Nigeria

Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, only about a decade after the defeat of the Sokoto Caliphate  and other Islamic states by the British, which were to constitute much of Northern Nigeria. The aftermath of WW1 saw Germany lose its colonies, one of which was Cameroon to French, Belgian and British mandates. Cameroon was divided in French and British parts, the latter of which was further subdivided into southern and northern parts. Following a plebiscite in 1961, the Southern Cameroons elected to rejoin French Cameroon, while the Northern Cameroons opted to join Nigeria, a move which added to Nigeria’s already large Northern Muslim population. The territory comprised much of what is now Northeastern Nigeria, and a large part of the areas affected by the present and past insurgencies.

Following the return of democratic government in 1999, the Muslim-dominated northern Nigerian states have introduced Sharia law, including punishments against blasphemy and apostasy. Several incidents have occurred whereby people have been killed for or in response to perceived insults to Islam.

Since the restoration of democracy in 1999, Christian governments have dominated the country at the federal level, while the Muslim-dominated Northern Nigerian states have implemented strict Sharia law. Religious conflict between Muslims and Christians has erupted several times since 2000 for various reasons, often causing riots with several thousands of victims on both sides. Since 2009, the Islamist movement Boko Haram has fought an armed rebellion against the Nigerian military, sacking villages and towns and taking thousands of lives in battles and massacres against Christians, students and others deemed enemies of Islam.

Civil War in Sudan

The conflict began in 2003 when rebels launched an insurrection to protest what they contended was the Sudanese government’s disregard for the western region and its non-Arab population.

In response, the government equipped and supported Arab militia. The militias, however, also terrorized the civilians in the region and prevented international aid organizations from delivering much-needed food and medical supplies. 

The UN would step in and South Sudan would be created. However conflict still exists in the area.

Kashmir

Kashmir is an ethnically diverse Himalayan region, covering around 86,000 sq miles (138 sq km), and famed for the beauty of its lakes, meadows and snow-capped mountains.

Even before India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947, the area was hotly contested.

Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was free to accede to either India or Pakistan.

The maharaja (local ruler), Hari Singh, initially wanted Kashmir to become independent – but in October 1947 chose to join India, in return for its help against an invasion of tribesmen from Pakistan.

A war erupted and India approached the United Nations asking it to intervene. The United Nations recommended holding a plebiscite to settle the question of whether the state would join India or Pakistan. However the two countries could not agree to a deal to demilitarise the region before the referendum could be held.

In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire line as recommended by the UN and the region became divided.

India and Pakistan did indeed agree a ceasefire in 2003 after years of bloodshed along the de facto border (also known as the Line of Control).

Pakistan later promised to stop funding insurgents in the territory, while India offered them an amnesty if they renounced militancy.

In 2014, India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power promising a tough line on Pakistan, but also showed interest in holding peace talks.

But a year later, India blamed Pakistan-based groups for an attack on its airbase in Pathankot in the northern state of Punjab.  Since then, there hasn’t been any progress in talks between the neighbor

The Rohingya

In August 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar’s army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.

They risked everything to escape by sea or on foot a military offensive which the United Nations later described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

In January 2020, the UN’s top court ordered the Buddhist-majority country to take measures to protect members of its Rohingya community from genocide.

But the army in Myanmar (formerly Burma) has said it was fighting Rohingya militants and denies targeting civilians. The country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, once a human rights icon, has repeatedly denied allegations of genocide.

With more than half a million Rohingya believed to still be living in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine province, UN investigators have warned there is a “serious risk that genocidal actions may occur or recur”.

Yemen

The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

As president, Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by jihadists, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of security personnel to Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, ending Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Hadi’s government.

The UN hoped the agreement would clear the way for a political settlement to end the civil war, but in January 2020 there was a sudden escalation in hostilities between the Houthis and coalition-led forces, with fighting on several front lines, missile strikes and air raids.

Yemen is currently a humanitarian crisis due to lack of food and medical facilities for the people.

Armenia-Azerbaijan

Nagorno-Karabakh is at the centre of an ethnic and territorial conflict between the two countries that dates back to the early 20th century. 

A breakaway Armenian-majority region inside Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh has around 150,000 inhabitants. 

Armenia is majority Christian, while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim. 

Though it is part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is run by separatist Armenians supported by the Armenian government. They have sought for decades to split from Azerbaijan and become part of Armenia, though unsuccessfully. 

In the 1990s, the region broke away from Azerbaijan, but has yet to be recognized by any country in the world. 

Conflict has recently broken out between the two groups.

Ethiopia

Freedom of religion is provided by the constitution of 1995, and freedom of worship had also been guaranteed by the 1930 and 1955 Constitutions of Ethiopia, although in certain localities this principle is not always respected in practice. There is no state religion, and it is forbidden to form political parties based upon religion; all religious groups are required to register with the government, and renew their registration once every three years. It is a crime in Ethiopia to incite one religion against another. Discrimination against Muslims has been rampant since the creation of modern Ethiopia, Muslims were marginalized in the Haile Selassie era. Haile Selassie actually came to power during the rise of opposition to Muslims in government positions. U.S ambassador David H. Shinn stated in 2005 that the Ethiopian leadership continued to be largely Christian. Tension between Christian and Muslim Oromo were witnessed during the 2005 Ethiopian general election, when Muslim Arsi Oromo denounced the Shewa Oromo for participating in political nepotism.b There is some tension between members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Protestant Christians, as well as between the Ethiopian Orthodox and Muslims in general. According to the Barnabas Fund, 55 churches were torched in March 2011 in the Jimma Zone by Muslims after a dispute. In December 2019 several mosques and Muslim owned businesses were attacked in the Christian dominated Amhara Region

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