Last September, Israel’s former President Shimon Peres asked Pope Francis to head a future “UN of religions”, a proposed organisation with “unquestionable” authority to proclaim God’s will. Peres argued globalising faith under a single world authority is required to combat terrorism. Is this concept, which has major implications, really about peace, or is there a darker agenda behind it?
For some time now, political and economic decision-making power has devolved away from citizens and the nation-state to global multilateral organisations. As these organisations shape a new global order favouring corporate and financial elites, local populations have a diminished say in economic decisions affecting them – especially when represented by careerist politicians more aligned to the global elite.
Lately there have been signs of a top-down push for the globalisation of religion as well, with calls for global political authority over the world’s spirituality.
The most obvious drive came last September when former President of Israel, Shimon Peres met with the Pope to propose the formation of a new “U.N. of religions”, which the Pope would head. Peres suggested this organisation should wield the “unquestionable” authority to declare what God does and does not want, in order combat religious extremism.
The implications are huge. 84 percent of the world’s population has a spiritual faith of some kind. Together the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist religions are followed by more 5.3 billion people, and a diverse mix of folk beliefs and smaller minority faiths, from Bahai to Wicca, account for almost another half billion. With spirituality playing a central role in the lives of most of the world’s population, it would seem “global governance” must inevitably take religion into account.
Various theorists have suggested a “One World Religion” will emerge as part of a “New World Order”. Is it possible that powerful people in the global elite desire – if not an actual monolithic world faith – then a global hegemony over the world’s spirituality, so that religions, and their followers, can be influenced through a central authority? If so, it would mean a similar model of top-down globalisation via multilateral organisations as deployed in politics, economics and trade, would be rolled out to spirituality.
But just how noble are the intentions of those vending this idea? Is their rhetoric bona fide? A closer examination suggests such a scheme is highly suspect, and part of broader agenda with ominous implications.
The Blueprint for a Global Religious Authority
Before his September meeting with the Pope to discuss forming a “U.N. of religions”, Shimon Peres detailed his ideas in an interview with Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana.
“What is needed is an Organisation of United Religions, a U.N. of religions. It would be the best way to combat these terrorists who kill in the name of faith”, Peres was quoted. “In the past, the majority of wars were motivated by the idea of nationhood. Today, instead, wars are sparked above all with the excuse of religion,” he said.
Global interfaith religious initiatives already exist, such as the United Religions Initiative, but evidently Peres envisages a much more top-down and authoritative “Organisation of United Religions”. He was quite blunt about the proposed organisation’s power: “What is needed is an unquestionable moral authority that says in a strong voice ‘No, God does not want this and does not permit it’.” He suggested the Pope lead it because “he is perhaps the only leader who is truly respected”.
The Pope was reportedly sympathetic, but made no “decision or personal commitment” and it remains to be seen whether this new body materialises.
Peres is not the first elite political figure to champion such an approach however. I have written before about Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation, the former UK Prime Minister’s eponymous charity which focuses on “faith and globalisation”. In January 2014 Blair wrote a widely republished essay stating what his foundation seeks to do:
“…the purpose is to change the policy of governments: to start to treat this issue of religious extremism as an issue that is about religion as well as politics, to go to the roots of where a false view of religion is being promulgated, and to make it a major item on the agenda of world leaders to combine effectively to combat it. This is a struggle that is only just beginning.”
Much like Peres, Blair has argued religious extremism is the prime cause of conflict in the world today, and world leaders must unite to address it. Also, like Peres, he claimed a political authority should have the power to determine which religious views are “false”.
Blair, too, also sought support from the Vatican, which leads the world’s largest religious congregation. However, despite being a recently-converted Catholic, Blair was not very successful when he made overtures to the Vatican in 2011, and one prominent Catholic scholar, Professor Michel Schooyans, believed the former UK leader had sinister objectives:
One of the aims of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation will be that of remaking the major religions, just as his colleague Barack Obama will remake global society. With this purpose, the foundation in question will try to expand the ‘new rights’, using the world religions for this end and adapting these for their new duties. The religions will have to be reduced to the same common denominator, which means stripping them of their identity …
This project threatens to set us back to an age in which political power was ascribed the mission of promoting a religious confession, or of changing it. In the case of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, this is also a matter of promoting one and only one religious confession, which a universal, global political power would impose on the entire world. (source)
Blair’s attempt to claim religious extremism is the root cause of today’s global conflict, while at the same time stubbornly justifying his deceptive role in the invasion of Iraq – and calling for more direct military intervention in the Middle East – was always going to raise eyebrows. Given his lack of credibility as a peace advocate, it’s not surprising to see a different retired world leader lobbying for religious globalisation at the Vatican.
The recently-retired Peres seems a much better fit for the job. While Blair has a hawkish reputation, Peres is considered to have transformed into a “dove” in his later years in office, where he appeared mild in comparison to some of his more hard-line Zionist compatriots. Pope Francis, who has been a PR coup for Church and was named TIME Magazine’s Man of the Year, also has the credibility and clout to lead such an initiative, a fact Peres seems well aware of.
So is this a legitimate initiative to promote peace, or something else?
Despite their superficial differences, the core argument Peres and Blair make is the same: religious extremism is responsible for today’s conflict, and a global political authority needs to wield control over religions. While religiously-motivated violence, particularly in the Islamic world, is undoubtedly a major problem, this argument is extremely deceptive and duplicitous, because it ignores the hidden (and not so hidden) hand which inflamed this problem, and actively works to sustain it.
The fact is the root cause of the explosion of extremist violence in the Middle East has been destructive foreign policies of NATO governments and its allies.
The invasion of Iraq, which Blair co-led, was based on outright lies about the country having weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The war killed up to a million people, destroyed its secular government, military and infrastructure. The ensuing chaos enabled religious extremists to ravage the region, first as Al Qaeda in Iraq (who had no presence there before the war) and now via the self-proclaimed Islamic State formerly known as ISIS.
Though seen as a “dove” now, Peres also has a chequered past when it comes to promoting world peace which includes being associated with war crimes and acting as a major architect of Israel’s covert nuclear weapons program. It’s an open secret that Israel has an undisclosed nuclear WMD stockpile. Israel began its secret nuclear weapons program in the 1950s, stealing nuclear secrets and materials from many countries, including the USA. Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan boasts that Peres recruited him as an Israeli spy and smuggler in a Tel Aviv nightclub in 1965 for this nuclear program.
In the mid-70s, Israel sought to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa. Documents obtained by The Guardian and published in 2010 reveal that in 1975 Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister, was in direct negotiations with his South African counterpart and offered to sell the nation nukes “in three sizes”.
Both Blair and Peres have a shady association with WMDs. In assessing their calls for religious globalisation, purportedly to promote peace, we have to ask ourselves: can we really trust a person who lied about WMDs, and another who tried to proliferate them?
A False Premise
The arguments of Blair and Peres also wilfully ignore how the foreign policy of the US government and its allies has fomented Islamic extremism since the 70’s, when the CIA funded and armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan to draw the Soviets into a proxy war, a tactic which gave rise to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In a similar vein, the current foreign policy of the US government and its allies has created ISIS, a fact a retired US General almost admitted in an apparent Freudian slip.
After Iraq’s military and government were pulverised, NATO later turned its attention to Libya and bombed it into a failed state while backing jihadist rebels to topple Gaddafi (both countries formerly had secular governments which kept religious extremism at bay). When Libya fell, Jihadist fighters and weapons began flooding into Syria, which has a secular regime the US government has also sought to topple. In Libya, ISIS is now being led by a rebel NATO directly backed to overthrow Gaddafi.
When ISIS, now calling itself the Islamic State, crossed the Syrian border into Iraq in 2014, the war torn country was unable to prevent the incursion. In Syria, where a civil war continues to rage, the US government and its allies have been arming and training so-called “moderate” rebels to overthrow the Assad government, despite these rebels having links to “Jihadists”. Many of these weapons and fighters funded by the US government have ended up in the ranks of ISIS, which also happens to be fighting Assad. There are also recent reports the Iraqi government arrested US and Israeli military advisors in the country this month for directly aiding Islamic State terrorists there. Such connections between the US government and ISIS are apparent even while the US government is supposed to be fighting ISIS in the Middle East at the same time. It seems a geopolitical “double game” is being played. See more on the origins of ISIS/the Islamic State in the video below: