Once again, Pope Francis has made global headlines, shocking reporters late Sunday after blaming the “god of money” for the extremist violence that is taking place in Europe and the Middle East. A ruthless global economy, he argues, leads disenfranchised people to violence.
Responding to a question from a journalist about whether or not there is a link between Islam and terrorism, more specifically addressing the fatal attack on a priest by a Muslim extremist in France last week, Pope Francis said, “Terrorism grows when there is no other option, and as long as the world economy has at its center the god of money and not the person.” “This is fundamental terrorism, against all humanity,” he continued.
“I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in [the Islamic State, or ISIS],” he said.
He believes no religion has a monopoly on violence, and his own experience in inter-religious dialogue has shown him that Muslims seek “peace and encounter.” “It is not right and it is not just to say that Islam is terroristic.”
“If I speak of Islamic violence, I should speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent,” Pope Francis said, dismissing Islamic State as a “small fundamentalist group” not representative of Islam as a whole.
“In almost all religions there is always a small group of fundamentalists,” even in the Catholic Church, the Pope said. They are not necessarily physically violent, however. “One can kill with the tongue as well as the knife,” he explains.
Last Wednesday, Pope Francis made similar remarks, arguing that the current conflicts in the Middle East are wars over economic and political interests, not religion, or what is generally known as “Islamic Terrorism.”
“There is war for money,” he said on Wednesday. “There is war for natural resources. There is war for the domination of peoples. Some might think I am speaking of religious war. No. All religions want peace; it is other people who want war.”
A Bold Statement
This may seem self-evident to some of you, but for many people, these are radical claims. He shows a remarkable level of honesty and progressive thinking by recognizing the real reason for this decades-long conflict, and makes a great point by stating that all people involved in this war also want peace as well.
“All religions want peace; it is other people who want war.”
While not directly calling out who “the other people” are, Pope Francis effectively removes blame from the people and even the religions themselves, marking an important step forward for the collective consciousness. It is easy for those of us who are living comfortable lives in Westernized countries to pass judgement, to dismiss an entire group of people as “extreme” and “crazy” and even “evil.” By keeping us in that frame of mind, the people who propagate and profit from these wars can continue doing so unchallenged.
Pope Francis even calls out his own religion, pointing out that Catholicism has its own flaws and its own extremists. We are all equal, and no one religion is the best. And as the Pope himself suggests, all religions point toward the same goal, which is peace. And that’s something I think we can all get behind.