Violence: between current affairs and the founding texts

This article was published in Oasis 20. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2022-04-22 09:24:16

Violence: a Temptation. At a time when the areas of conflict seem to be multiplying relentlessly, Oasis could not run away from the challenge. It chose to talk about it at Sarajevo, “a city that has become […] in a certain sense the symbol of the twentieth century” (to borrow John Paul II’s happy turn of phrase[1]) and did so on the exact hundredth anniversary of the famous assassination on the Latin Bridge that ignited the powder keg of the First World War. The reflection that emerged (and that constitutes this edition’s keystone) finds its expression on three levels and paves the way for a hypothesis.

The first level of analysis focuses on current affairs: various contributions review the main tension hot-spots – Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, the Sahel, Egypt and the Indian sub-continent – in an attempt to identify the roots of the current crisis. This without forgetting certain positive examples such as Albania or the attempt to construct a Gandhian Islam amidst the bellicose Pashtun tribes in today’s Pakistan. In this search for causes (or historìa, as Herodotus would say), it is precisely the First World War that looms large, as it was this that decreed the end of the Ottoman Caliphate. This institution had had an almost uniquely symbolic value for centuries but its abolition in 1924 produced shock-waves that reached as far as distant India: if one wishes to understand the neo-Caliphate proclaimed by ISIS, but also political Islam’s project, it is necessary to go back at least as far as that watershed. In other respects, for the Christian minorities living in the Middle East, the First World War was also a time of broken promises and attempts to build fragile, new national identities.

And yet current news are not enough, even if they are stretched to encompass that fateful summer of 1914 and its calculated risk[2] (which turned out not to be that calculated, after all). There is a need to dig deeper: to get to (and this is the second level) the Founding texts and, therefore, for the Muslim world, the question of jihad, both in the Sunni world and in the Shi‘ite one. This through an analysis of the texts’ interpretations. There remains, however, a third step to be taken, because the ultimate interpretation of the phenomenon of violence seems to be both anthropological (here, René Girard’s theses are fundamental) and theological. Through Guardini’s simple and most profound pages, the reader will thus go back to the heart of the question: the archetypal garden of Eden and what followed it.

And the hypothesis? This is the idea, recently developed by the International Theological Commission, that the laborious process through which Christianity has, amidst a thousand contradictions, taken its leave of the logic of sacred violence, might be beginning to reverberate in other religious cultures, too, meeting both with welcoming acceptance and with hostility. Ever more welcoming acceptance and ever more hostility, because time is marching towards its final destination, the Hour and its Sign.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Oasis International Foundation

[1] John Paul II, Apostolic Journey to Sarajevo, 12-13 April 1997, Speech to Members of the Presidency of Bosnia -Herzegovina, 13 April 1997, no. 2.

[2] See Gian Enrico Rusconi, 1914: Attacco a Occidente (Il Mulino, Bologna 2014).

To cite this article

Printed version:
Martino Diez, “A Temptation and a Hypothesis”, Oasis, year X, n. 20, December 2014, pp. 11.

Online version:
Martino Diez, “A Temptation and a Hypothesis”, Oasis [online], published on 8th April 2015, URL: