100,000 Protestant Christians Urged to 'Own Up' to Haunted Past

Christians at the largest Protestant gathering in Germany were urged Thursday to admit to the wrongdoings of their Christian ancestors in an effort to reconcile and live peacefully with other religions.

A lecture on "How Can Religions Live Together?" at the "Kirchentag" conference in Cologne, Germany, examined how conflicts are fueled and what can be done by Christians to defuse the tension and facilitate peace among people of different faiths.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), said conflicts can be fueled by religion, but globalization also contributes to the rising number of ethno-religious conflicts that makes up a large proportion of the world conflicts.

Kobia observed that "attributing outbursts of violence only to religion" is incorrect because the "causes of violent conflicts are usually more complex," according to WCC.

The current upsurge of religious fundamentalism, for example, can be interpreted as a consequence not only of religious tension, but also as a form of "collective resistance" against cultural domination under the framework of globalization.

Social, economic, political and cultural effects of globalization significantly contribute to the emergence of new ethno-religious conflicts, contended Kobia.

In order to live peacefully together in the world, people of different faiths need to "overcome histories of domination and oppression," the ecumenical leader said.

For Christians, this includes admitting to the "sad chapters of Christian mission history," in which other religions were "oppressed in often violent ways."

"If we do not own up to this history, turn around and repent, this part of our past will always haunt the relationship among us and with people of other faiths," Kobia said.

The WCC general secretary acknowledged that religion can be both a source of division and hatred but also one of life.

The German Protestant "Kirchentag" is the largest Protestant gathering in Germany and is held every two years. The current June 6-10 event has attracted some 100,000 participants.