Religion and war culture discussed in Vienna


Date posted: October 18, 2014

The symposium titled “Religious Communities in the World War I,” organized as part of the “1914-Peace-2014” series, jointly by Vienna-based Friede-Institut für Dialog (Peace Institute for Dialogue), the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) and Austrian Katholische Militaerseelsorge took place at the Vienna Military Academy on Thursday, October 16 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I.

The event was attended by the cadets from the Vienna Military High School in addition to the representatives of more than 30 international religious groups working at the armies of many European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Spain and transoceanic countries such as the US and Ecuador.

Delivering the opening speech, Episcopal Vicar Werner Freistetter, the head of the Institut für Religion und Frieden (Institute for Religion and Peace), greeted the quests from abroad and thanked the Friede-Institut für Dialog for its cooperation. Then the floor went to Patrick J. Houlihan, lecturer from the Department of History at Chicago University, who discussed the traces of the wars and its impact on the countries in this paper titled “Religion and War Culture: 100 Years after the Great War.”

The second presentation came from Wilhelm Achleitner, Education Director of Puchberg Palace in Wels. Titled “War Theology of Austrian Bishops in the World War,” Achleitner’s presentation quoted Pope Francis as saying, “War cannot be waged in the name of God; this is what we should dogmatize.”

Journalist/writer Mustafa Akyol looked at the war from a different perspective in his presentation, titled “Place of Religious Communities in the Ottoman Empire during the World War I: A Historical Inquiry into Religious Diversity in Contemporary Turkey.” Akyol argued that contemporary conflicts date back to the post-World War I era, which served as a hotbed for today’s radical Islamist and marginal groups.

Claudia Reichl-Ham, from the Museum of Military History, delivered a speech about the religious services during the Great War. Reichl-Ham’s presentation was accompanied with a rich repository of photos about the multi-religious composition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s army and religious ceremonies of these religious communities. She noted that the Austrian state’s decision to recognize “Islam” as an official religion dated back to the war years, i.e., 1912.

Julia Walleczek-Fritz, from the Platform for Research into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the World War I, treated the issue of religious freedoms with a focus on the prisoners of war in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She indicated that 8-9 millions of prisoners of war and their religious freedoms constituted a major agenda item in the empire at that time. Walleczek-Fritz added that while there were glitches in translating theory into practice, the rights granted for general religious rites –provided that military rules were not breached– should be considered as freedoms.

The symposium ended after the question and answer session.

Source: Journalists and Writers Foundation , October 16, 2014


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