This visual called ‘Coexist’ was created by a Polish graphic designer Piotr Młodożeniec back in 2000 for an international art competition. Since then, it has become a bumper sticker on thousands of cars. People have modified this logo immensely each time trying to make it more ‘inclusive’. But as the author says, that whenever we try to develop an idea or a concept too much, we usually spoil the initial message.
Around 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson said, that, ‘on the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.’
Two centuries have passed, the most phenomenal, breathtaking and devastating changes in human history have taken place. We have created artificial intelligence, we aspire to conquer Space. We have witnessed numerous genocides, most of them had a religious ground. But still, after all these atrocities and achievements, people haven’t learnt how to coexist.
Just last month, we witnessed a deadly mass shooting in two mosques in New Zealand that took the lives of 49 people. We hadn’t recovered from the terrible events in Christchurch, before the horrendous blasts on Easter weekend. Three locations in Sri Lanka took the lives of 253 people on Easter Sunday. IS claimed the responsibility of the attack without offering any evidence.
Just a week after, on 27 April, a 19-year-old gunman entered a synagogue in Poway near San Diego yelling anti-Semitic messages. He killed one woman and left the rabbi and two other people wounded. There is already evidence emerging that the Christchurch attacker and the San Diego attacker both used a platform called ‘8Chan’ to spread white supremacist messages and manifestos.
All these attacks came exactly six months after the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings, that left 11 dead and opened a big discussion about the rising anti-Semitism in the US. The gunman believed Jews ‘were committing a genocide to his people’.
Three attacks in almost one month driven by religious intolerance took the lives of around 400 people. But this is just a small piece of the bigger image. The Religion and Armed Conflict data shows that the religious issue conflicts have been on a constant rise since 1975. Where does this amount of hatred come from?
One of the first reasons is that all types of religions are quite vulnerable and open to connotations. They can easily be distorted by the people who want to use religion as a tool and as a justification to make evil or to satisfy their personal and/ or collective ambitions. Another reason is that freedom of speech has become so ‘excessive’ nowadays, that it is secretly supporting online radicalization. Moreover, Pew research center’s findings show that 55 countries from 198 had high or very high levels of restrictions on religion in 2016.
That is why the roles of education and state policy making are so vital nowadays to stop the fever of intolerance and hatred. Both the obvious and obscure messages that circulate in the media and on the web can either foster or suppress extremism.
Whatever people believe they need to stop looking for enemies in each other. We have to stop offering short-term solutions, but instead look at the core of the problem. We have to reunite in order to peacefully coexist.