Catholic Social Thought: A Solution to "The Clash of Civilizations"

By: Moussa Soumahoro

April 20, 2015

The Clash of Civilizations and Catholic Social Thought

We talk a lot about the process of globalization, viewing it as a necessity to bring about peace and well-being throughout the world. But globalization brings with it many concerns, such as protecting cultural diversity and the influence of nationalism. A person can be so proud to be part of a particular community that it can sometimes become difficult for them to accept another person who does not share their ideology or point of view. Our future challenges will be about the different oppositions between cultures.

Indeed, it will be compulsory to find mechanisms that will achieve sustainable peace between people of different cultures, ideologies, and identities. The dilemma over the definition of human rights and their universality illustrate Samuel Huntington’s idea of the “clash of civilizations,” which he presented in 1993. If human rights are considered universal, they should be applied in the same way around the world and each citizen should be allowed to fully benefit from them. But in most Islamic countries, “human rights” are based on “sharia,” the law of Islam, although they acknowledge fundamental international conventions such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published in 1948. In certain ways, this could be viewed as a clash between Islamic and occidental civilizations.         

Moreover, tribal wars, occurring in countries such as the Republic of Central Africa, racism, and new forms of terrorism often based on Islamic fundamentalism are motivated by cultural, ideological, identity-based, and even religious considerations. These new conflicts illustrate that our world is facing a great concern: the one concerning the “clash of civilizations.” People of different cultures hate, insult, and slaughter each other, and struggle to protect their own interests (think of the Rwanda genocide). Surely, this is the reason why Samuel Huntington said in his article The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, “Nation states are and will remain the most important actors in world affairs, but their interests, associations, and conflicts are increasingly shaped by cultural and civilizational factors”.

Catholic social thought (CST) has been always struggling to stop “the clash of civilizations” in order to promote peaceful behavior and justice around the world. CST struggles against racism and other forms of discrimination and injustice to achieve sustainable peace and justice in our world. The actions of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis illustrate the great efforts CST has made to bring about a harmonious and suitable world for everyone. CST could provide important solutions for the resolution of this new threat by making us understand the importance of unity in social life.  
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