Monday, May 5, 2014

John Kerry On Religion: 'Something That Was Written Down a Thousand Plus, Two Thousand Years Ago'

    During a talk to the U.S. embassy staff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the first stop on his trip to Africa, Secretary of State John Kerry remarked about what he called the "different cross-currents of modernity" and the challenges they present on the African continent. The comments seem to contain a veiled reference to religion and the part that religion might be playing in some of the current conflicts in Africa:
This is a time here in Africa where there are a number of different cross-currents of modernity that are coming together to make things even more challenging. Some people believe that people ought to be able to only do what they say they ought to do, or to believe what they say they ought to believe, or live by their interpretation of something that was written down a thousand plus, two thousand years ago. That’s not the way I think most people want to live.
    The words "something that was written down a thousand plus, two thousand years ago" appear to refer to the Bible, or the Koran, or perhaps both.  More than one conflict in Africa today has either implicit or explicit religious connections:
  • In Nigeria, the Boko Haram, which the State Department has called a "violent extremist organization with links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb" has been "responsible for thousands of deaths since its conception in 2009, including large-scale attacks against Muslim and Christian religious communities."
  • In the Central African Republic, the State Department recently expressed that the United States is "deeply concerned by attacks on both Muslims and Christians[.]"
  • Further, the so-called Lord's Resistance Army with its leader the self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony has wreaked havoc in numerous African nations.  The State Department has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Kony's arrest or conviction.
    Besides military conflicts, other issues with religious connotations have come to the forefront in recent years, from Uganda's recent anti-homosexuality law to some Islamic groups' attempts to institute Sharia law in some countries.
    The press office of the State Department declined to parse Kerry's remarks, instead referring questions to the traveling party accompanying the secretary on his Africa trip.  An attempt to contact State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, who is with Kerry in Africa, to clarify the remarks has so far been unsuccessful.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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