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With God on Our Side... Religion and War: Panel Talk

Part of Belief and Beyond Belief

From the St George’s cross of The Crusades to the black flag of ISIS, wars continue to be waged under the banner of religion. But how do religions which claim to preach peace and understanding become justifications for bloodshed?

Does a war waged in the name of religion mean that its true teachings have been perverted to political or ideological ends? Or are there some justifications for mass violence taught by religions themselves? And when the battle lines are drawn, what separates a believer on one side from a non-believer on the other?


- Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website. He was the editor-in-chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi from the founding of that paper in 1989 until July 2013,

- Sam Walton, a young Quaker activist, and manages the Peace & Disarmament Programme of Quakers in Britain. He works on demilitarisation of society, ending the arms trade, anti-drones campaigns among other issues. He is also on the board of the British-American Security Information Council, a thinktank which looks at defence issues. He’s involved with UK Uncut and Green & Black Cross, an organisation which supports activists with legal advice.

- Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who was the 106th Bishop of Rochester for 15 years, until 1 September 2009. He is now director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, and has been Visiting Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, in the United States.

- Humera Khan, a freelance consultant and researcher and co-founded An-Nisa Society in 1985, an organisation managed by women working for the welfare of Muslim families. She has written numerous articles for various publications including Q-News, The Guardian and The Independent.

- Nidar Singh Nihang, the sole-surviving master in a lineage of Sikh swordsmen and ninth teacher (gurdev) of a classical school of learning established in 1661, called the Baba Darbara Singh Shastar Vidya Akhara, which is the last remnant of this ancient tradition.

- Tom Holland, author of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Persian Fire, his history of the Graeco-Persian wars, won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award in 2006. His third work of history, Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, was published in the autumn of 2008. In the Shadow of the Sword (2012), covers the collapse of Roman and Persian power in the Near East, and the emergence of Islam. Dynasty, about the first Caesars, has been published by Little, Brown Book Group and is out now in paperback. He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Making History. He has written and presented a number of TV documentaries, on subjects ranging from religion to dinosaurs. His most recent film, ISIS: The Origins of Violence, explored the origins of modern jihadism in 8th century Islamic concepts of martyrdom.

Chaired by Wendy Jones, author of seven books, both fiction and non-fiction, which have been translated into 11 languages, including Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, the biography of Grayson Perry.

Dates & times

This event has passed.


Royal Festival Hall
The Clore Ballroom, Level 2


Included in Pass
£15, £25

need to know

This event is included in both the Saturday and Weekend Passes, and is part of With God On Our Side... Religion and War Weekend.