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Die Macht der Religionen

The power of religions. Religious conflicts in global politics

Wilfried Röhrich: Die Macht der Religionen. Glaubenskonflikte in der Weltpoltik. (The power of religions. Religious conflicts in global politics.) Munich 2004: C.H. Beck. 304 p., EUR 14.90.

Reviewed by Simone Dietrich, M.A.
Translated by Angelika Stieglbauer

06.04.2005 · Reviewed by Simone Dietrich

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Contributions to a relative peaceableness or bellicosity of the Islam are booming at the moment. Scientists of the Orient and the Occident are analyzing and interpreting the Moslem world that is first confused about the plurality and complexity of the world; in its terrorist excesses, however, it meets with hostile defense attitude. Religious terrorism with its enormous and unforeseen destructive urge keeps the Western regimes in suspense since 9/11 and forces a confrontation between the Islam and the West; at a quick glance nobody could have better predicted this than Samual Huntington in 1993. Under the guise of the jihad – the propagated war between believers and unbelievers – fundamentalists mobilize their followers, willing to die, while the Bush administration appeals with religiously backed up black and white rhetoric for a joint crusade against "the axis of the evil". The Islam against American Christianity, an exciting and growing deadly conflict, analyzed also by Wilfried Röhrich recently.

Röhrich thinks, that "today's religious conflicts have become decisive factors in global politics" (p. 267) and he further argues that present and future global politics can only be understood "in consideration of the religious component" (p. 13). The increasing power of faith and its politicization are results of a worldwide renaissance of religion; the development cannot be illustrated only since 9/11 in the shape of Islamic fundamentalism, it already gained ground since the end of the 20st century in other religious persuasions and has its share in the origin and extension of inter-religious conflicts. Examples for this are e.g. the fundamental fight between the Israeli Jews and their Muslim neighbors in the Near East, the conflicts between the Hinduism and the Islam in the Kashmir conflict and the escalating confrontation of Buddhist Singhalese with the Hindu Tamils on Sri Lanka.

In view of these centers of conflict, which are threatening the system, Röhrich is pleading for an inter-religious dialogue that has to lead the present conflict of values to a consensus of values. The basis for this of course is the knowledge of the respective religions. Röhrich makes an important contribution to this by systematically describing the contents of the world religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism – and by showing exemplarily their correspondences and disparities and finally presenting premises and perspectives with a view to an inter-religious dialogue. Neither heavy artillery nor only the force level are adequate means for conflict prevention or solution; only the start and fostering of an inter-religious discourse can be successful as a lasting strategy.

Unfortunately, Röhrich often let us grope in the dark about how to transform his call for an inter-religious dialogue practically. Worth mentioning is, however, his emphatic appeal to protect and gradually pacify the Middle East through a regional inherent and institutionalized conflict solution like the CSCE. In general, the author captivates by his knowledge, vision and emphasis. Lightly drawn up Röhrich's book is not only recommendable for experts but also an excellent source of information for persons interested in politics.

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