Qana carnage

Image source: Reuters

Chatting with a work mate the other day about the latest human disaster story to unfold in the Middle East, my friend–a devout Christian–lamented that it was quite likely the world would be in a state of perpetual conflict until there was but a single religion. As a fully paid-up secular humanist one might imagine that I’d subscribe to this view. I don’t make a secret of the fact that I have an extremely low regard for the Catholic Church which has managed to screw up more people I know than I care to mention, and my concern about the rise of religious fundamentalism around the world (whether in the US midwest or the suburbs of Tehran) I have blogged about on a number of occasions. Yet, reflecting on my friend’s comment, I can’t help but think (in my economically-deterministic way) that really religion is just a side-show. Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu … what does it matter? It could be Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man U, or some other cosmetic way of grouping people. I mean no disrespect to mainstream religions because everyone has the right to worship in the way they choose. My point is that, ultimately, it’s about human well-being and social justice (or the lack thereof).

The problem is that peaceful co-existence (which includes religious tolerance) is not an attractive option for those who seek material gain at the expense of others. The Israelis copped a hiding from the international community today after the bombing of Qana which left 54 refugees dead (including 37 children). No parent can watch the horrific images beamed around the world and not be deeply affected by them. The sympathy vote for Israel (to the extent there was one) is rapidly ebbing away. Culpability, however, is not the exclusive preserve of the Israeli military. Which country sells them arms? Which country alone has the power within the international community to call Israel off? Which country has actively sought conflict in the Middle East for its own pecuniary benefit?

Image source: AP