INNATE has direct connections with both the
War Resisters International (WRI) and the International Fellowship
of Reconciliation (IFOR) which are, respectively, secular
and inter-faith nonviolence bodies worldwide. We have informal
links with many other bodies including Pax Christi, an international
Catholic peace organisation. So where is INNATE on religious/faith/spiritual
We try to respect people of all faiths and none.
Most of the people currently actively involved in INNATE do
have a Christian faith, of different denominations, but we
also have people who are agnostic, humanist or simply secular.
We see nonviolence as a key element of life, and of any faith
or secular belief system; we are therefore very happy to sponsor
events which come at nonviolence from a religious, faith or
secular belief perspective. In the case of our January event
it was Christian; it could be from an inter-faith perspective,
or indeed that of a particular faith, such as Buddhism. The
events which we put on are a mixture of what we plan from
scratch and what become available to us through cooperation
with other bodies or the availability of a resource person
(the latter was the case with the January workshop). We would
be equally happy putting on a workshop on humanism and nonviolence.
It also must be acknowledged that Christianity is the dominant
local religion; this does not mean that we should only pay
attention to Christians or Christian beliefs but that, so
far as religion is concerned, ‘Christian’ approaches
to nonviolence are more likely to strike a chord with more
people and get the numbers necessary to make an event work.
Faith, or lack of it, and belief are very personal
matters. All religions have a common thread of the ‘golden
rule’, treating your neighbour, near or far, as yourself.
But there is frequently a lack of connection between the teaching
and the reality; religions can bolster division and violence
just as they can be a force for liberation and reaching out
to others (you can decide where the balance lies in a particular
situation, such as Northern Ireland, or indeed the Republic).
Where nonviolence and justice are key elements in religious
belief then there is hope that the religion concerned can
indeed be a force for liberation, not just for those of that
religious persuasion but for all in the society concerned.
Those of us involved in INNATE retain our own
personal belief systems but recognise the importance of nonviolence.
How nonviolence and our belief systems interact can be an
important area of exploration, not just in terms of sustaining
ourselves but also of reaching out to other people. It may
seem a contradiction in terms to some people but INNATE is
proud to be both religious and non-religious simultaneously
in that we try to make room for all within our work, and to
relate to people of all religions and none. We feel that this
is an appropriate response to the Ireland and world of today.
And we are proud or our links with both WRI and IFOR, as well
as with many other faith and secular organisations.
If we are taking this position then it is important
that it does not come across, or that we make judgements,
a) One religion is ‘truer’ than another. Individuals
may believe this but as a collective entity this would be
inappropriate because it is introducing first and second class
b) ‘Having a religion’ is preferable to not having
a religious faith belief, or vice versa. To do this, again,
would be to make a judgement that one set of beliefs is superior
to another. And this is not what we are about.
There are other possible responses and stances
which can be taken by an organisation on the issue. One is
simply to proclaim yourself a secular organisation –
the majority of organisations associated with the War Resisters
International, for example, would be in this category. People
can still get involved because of a faith perspective but
the organisation itself does not deal with, or run programme
on, faith issues. Another possibility, as exhibited by the
Fellowship of Reconciliation in the USA, is to be inter-faith
but have individual faith fellowships (for Christians, Muslims,
Jews, and so on) within it; the difficulty with this model
is that you need to be large enough to sustain it (and INNATE
would not be). There are other possibilities such as proclaiming
yourself inter-faith but allowing participation from those
who would have a deep belief in nonviolence but are more humanist
or agnostic (some organisations associated with the International
Fellowship of Reconciliation would fit this category). A further
response, e.g. by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in England
and a few other places, would be to retain your Christian
identity but create, or allow the creation of, a separate
inter-faith body as a sister organisation within the overall
A key element in all of this should be respect,
as it is in nonviolence in general. INNATE has a particular
policy which is, we believe, an inclusive one. However there
are dangers with any of these models. The danger with INNATE’s
model could be that it proclaims itself open to all but is
actually the preserve only of Christians because that is the
commonest position. However in making this statement we wish
to state where we stand and express our openness to work and
collaborate with other bodies, whether from a particular religious,
inter-faith, or secular/humanist background. We try always
to be open to suggestions.