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Religious intolerance is dangerous as it breeds prejudice and injustice. These invariably leads to rebellion and retaliation, and with the parties involved becoming more belligerent and intransigent, making reconciliation almost impossible.

Why religious intolerance should be eschewed by one and all is because during times of poverty, stress, despair and frustration, people become increasingly irrational, and they do things which they never think they are capable of - so we see hideous brutality perpetrated by the gentlest people when prejudice and intolerance rear their ugly heads.

From what we have seen in other countries, once started, religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds. We saw such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland. We see it between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility.

Religious intolerance plays a very big role in civil unrest and war. Clashes are frequently described as being ethnic in origin, even though religion may have been a main cause. Frequently, in religious clashes, there is a mixture of political alliances, economic differences, ethnic feuds, and religious differences.

In the case of Northern Ireland, the troubles go back to about three decades of violence, largely between the Roman Catholics nationalist community who sought union with Ireland and the primarily Protestant unionist community who want to remain part of the UK. It was largely rooted in discrimination by the Protestant majority against the Catholic minority. Between 1969 and 2001, 3,526 people were killed by Republican and Loyalist paramilitary groups and by British and Irish security forces. An uneasy peace was attained by the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and has endured.

Similarly, the Rwanda genocide was mainly an ethnic conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. The religious split in the country (75% Christian, mostly Roman Catholic, and 25% indigenous) appears to not have been a significant factor. On the order of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were murdered, between 1994-APR to July, mostly by being hacked to death.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was among three faith groups, (Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Serbian Orthodox). The Serbian Orthodox Christian attacks on Muslims were considered sufficiently serious to rise to the level of genocide. The horrendous civil war in Sudan, called the Second Sudanese Civil War, lasted from 1983 to 2005; it had a significant religious component among Muslims, Christians and Animists. But inter-tribal warfare, racial and language conflicts are also involved. About two million died directly or indirectly during the war. Conflict has eased. A peace agreement of 2011 led to a referendum and independence for southern Sudan, which is known as the Republic of South Sudan.

In Indonesia, after centuries of relative peace, conflicts between Christians and Muslims started during 1999. About 6,000 were killed; over a half million people were internally displaced; thousands were forced to convert to another religion.  In Myanmar, former Burma, the Muslim Rohingya a 4% to 10% minority is suffering major oppression by the 80% Buddhist majority. About 400,000 -- half of the total population of Rohingyas -- have fled the country. We therefore appeal to political and religious leaders and organizations to ensure that religions are not used to cause religious conflict in our society.

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