It is well known that the debates on the religious topics are among the hottest in our time. Understanding the processes of possible differences can significantly smooth or eliminate the conflict altogether. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to study the relationships between representatives of different religions in different countries. Comparing these relations will help to identify possible scenarios for the behavior of the two sides and the possible outcome of the conflict between them. This paper examines the relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims in the Ottoman Empire and between Catholics and Protestants in the Holy Roman Empire and France. The apparent tolerance in the Ottoman Empire and a major confrontation in France and the Holy Roman Empire show different ways of development of relations between the two religions. Although in both cases, the representatives of different religions have shown the reluctance to accept the right of others to freedom of religion, history shows that peaceful coexistence is still possible with the proper policy of the state.
Keywords: Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, religion.
Religion has always been a subject of a heated debate, growing hatred, and bloodshed. Standards of humility and humanity do not apply to people of other religions. Even the different movements of one religion may be a reason for murder and violence. All these misfortunes began long ago when different groups of people have decided to explain the appearance of man on Earth, and other phenomena in different ways. And as such beliefs were based on generally accepted customs, moral and cultural norms, the behavior of other religions was unacceptable, as was beyond the common rules. In general, religion has bought itself a double glory, speaking at the same time as a friend and comforter, and as an excuse for hatred and war (Newworldencyclopedia.org, 2015). Currently, in the world there are about 2,200 religions. This number includes 19 major religions and their 270 main groups (Religioustolerance.org, 2015). According to data for 2010, Christianity is the most widespread religion in the world, but by the number of followers it almost catches up with Islam (Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, 2010). And these two most common religions in the world do not always get along with each other, as well as the two main movements of the Christian Church: Catholicism and Protestantism. The study of relations between representatives of Islam and Orthodoxy as well as between the adherents of Catholicism and Protestantism is very important for understanding the causes of their conflicts. Their confrontation started long ago and continues to this day, sowing discord and causing wars. Although today the strongest confrontation is between Muslims and Christians, in the past their relationship was much more peaceful in comparison to the relationship between Catholics and Protestants. For example, in the Ottoman Empire Orthodox Christians coexisted peacefully with the adherents of Islam. Controversially, in France and the Holy Roman Empire then floated armed conflicts between Protestants and Catholics. And compared with these religious wars, relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims could almost be called a friendship.
In the Ottoman Empire the number of followers of the Islamic religion was more than the number of Orthodox Christians. Accordingly, the majority dictated its rules, which the minority had to obey (Kilpatrick, 2008). The mere fact that the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was proclaimed “the protector of Islam” speaks volumes. The people who did not belong to the Muslim religion formed communities which rights were governed by the so-called the millet system. Orthodox Christians were under the control of the Patriarch, who was appointed by the Sultan. Apart from the fact that Christians were limited in their rights, they still had to pay certain taxes. This was especially true of the conquered Christians, who were forced to give twenty percent of their male children who were later converted to Islam and turned into slaves. However, despite this terrible for a modern human fact, this social situation of the slave children was quite privileged, since they were considered elite and could reach a fairly large success. As the Ottoman conquested of Christian territories, many churches were converted into mosques. However, people were still allowed to practice the Christian religion. Muslim tolerance towards other religions was particularly relevant during the reign of Sultan Mehmet. Non-Muslims, including Orthodox Christians, have a lot of rights and freedoms. They were allocated a special area in the city, and Muslim leaders supported the freedom of the Christian religion (Bbc.co.uk, 2009). However, all this refers specifically to the conquered territories. Generally, millets were the legitimate way to protect the rights of religious minorities as long as they paid their taxes. In addition, there was a set of rules limiting the freedom of non-Muslims. For example, a Muslim man could marry Orthodox Christian woman, but an Orthodox Christian man could not marry a Muslim woman. In addition, children born to married a Muslim and a Christian were to accept the Muslim faith. Also, in this rulebook, there was stated that non-Muslims had to differ from the Muslim in clothing and animals, which they were allowed to ride (Masters, 2001, p. 22).
In general, Muslims and Christians lived quite apart from each other. They rarely took part in the events related to the Muslim world outside their community. Moreover, even the mention of such events in the Christian chroniclers were rare. This behavior was mutual, according to the unwritten rule that any incidents happen with representatives of other religions were unimportant. Thus, there were, as well as segregation by law, also psychological and social gaps of Muslims and Christians existed. And today it is difficult to determine how big the difference was. The reason is that most historical accounts of relations between Muslims and Christians were not written by the observers, but by the direct participants of these relations. The search for truth also complicated by the fact that the restrictions and differences were not the same throughout the territory of the Ottoman Empire. What was acceptable in one city, elsewhere met conviction and punishment. In addition, the boundaries of the power of a certain community change over time. Very little evidence remained about how effective cross-cultural communication was between Christians and Muslims. What people thought about each other, whether they communicated in everyday life, or avoided other religions, remains unknown.
However, if the social component of relations between Muslims and Christians is obscure, the economic differences between them were not that big. Most historians agree that, in general, in the Ottoman Empire representatives of other religions were economically almost not oppressed. Of course, the non-Muslim community had to pay taxes, but the tax was supposed to pay the community as a whole, and that fact helped some did not pay at all (Masters, 2001, p. 17). Thus, many Christians have had the opportunity to work in peace and prosper. Historical evidence shows that by the end of the Ottoman Empire most of the richest people in the country were non-Muslims.
As for political rights, here, oddly enough, Muslims and Christians had almost the same capabilities. Or rather, they practically do not affect the policies and administration of the country. All political power was concentrated in the hands of the sultan. However, if the elite of some Arab cities considered that they have some influence, Christians did not have such illusions (Masters, 2001, p. 18). The fact that for seven centuries the Ottoman Empire was ruled by the same family suggests that the sultans held power firmly in his hands (Bbc.co.uk, 2009).
Masters brings a good example of cooperation between Christians, Muslims, and Jews on religious celebrations (2001, p. 26). The set of rules governing relations between members of different religions, raised the following question: can Christians, in accordance with their traditions to carry out religious activities, thus making it the singing and dancing? The answer is that if it prevents Muslims to conduct their own rituals, such as when the Christian holidays fall on Friday, then Christians should not hold such public holidays (Masters, 2001, p. 26). This is an exact illustration of the whole of the relationship between Muslims and Christians: in the condition that Christians did not interfere with the Muslims, they were allowed to act according to their will. In general, relations between Muslims and Christians are rather difficult to interpret unambiguously. Their social relationships are quite complex. Historical evidence shows that there were cases of mutual respect toward the holidays of Christians and Muslims. For instance, a Christian might give a dyed egg at Easter to his Muslim neighbor. And this Muslim, in turn, could share the meat at the Feast of the Sacrifice. This shows that in the Ottoman Empire there was a place for religious tolerance and mutual respect of representatives of different faiths. At the same time, there were often cases of misunderstanding and miscommunication, which led to reciprocal aggression and violence (Masters, 2001, p. 29). Yet the fact that between Muslims and Orthodox Christians have been no major mass fights, including the murder of the each other, says a lot. This shows that at that time their relationship can be described as reasonable and sometimes indifferent.
However, quite other relations were built between Catholics and Protestants in the Holy Roman Empire and France. Actually, the word "Protestantism" appeared relatively not so long ago. It all began with the Reformation in the 16th century, when the Catholic Martin Luther, having good intentions toward the Catholic Church that he wanted to improve, encroached on its fundamental pillars. The Reformation was the reason for the split of the Roman Church on Catholics and Protestants. Supporters of the Reformation were against the clergy of Rome, against unreasonable church fees and religious prejudices that had no biblical basis. They also sought to make the Bible accessible and understandable, not only for the clergy, but also for ordinary people. Catholics argue that such an approach alienates people from the church, destroying the unity of the faith. A great indignation of the Catholic Church caused the document "Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil." Many Protestants have paid for it with their life (Peterson, n.d.). Thus began the confrontation between Catholics and Protestants that lasted for several centuries and which claimed thousands of lives. The Roman Empire was categorically opposed to Protestantism, being the center of the Catholic religion. Protestantism was declared heresy and brutally persecuted. However, some of the princes who ruled the Holy Roman Empire in different regions shared the views of Martin Luther. And at the center of dissension was the Catholic France fights with the Protestants – Huguenots. These attempts were not very successful, and by the middle of the 16th century, Protestantism was professed by about ten percent of the French population. Catherine de Medici met with the leaders of the Protestant and after the talks made some concessions. Since she needed their support, she took steps to ensure the safety and freedom for the Protestants. Thus, Protestantism was recognized as a religion, and it was allowed to practice freely. However, the holding of religious ceremonies had to be carried out in private and not in any way in the towns where conflicts could flare up instantly.
However, these decrees of the supreme power did not solve the problem of a mutual hatred of the ordinary Catholics and Protestants. Their differences on key issues were too great. If there is a reason, and there is always an occasion. In March 1562 a member of the aristocratic family François de Guise found the Huguenots conducting their religious ceremonies. Seeing this, he ordered to set fire to a Protestant church, which caused the death and injuries of many people. This incident marked the beginning of the First French War of Religion. This was followed by a massacre at the St. Bartholomew's Day on August 24, 1572. More than two thousand Protestants were killed, and that slaughter occurred also in the French provinces. In general, for the whole 1572 more than 30 thousand Protestants were put to death across the country. Catherine de Medici could not support Protestantism anymore since her rule became weaker. Violence and prejudice dominated in the country. It all caused a total collapse of the French economy. The riots of the hungry peasants began to flare up, in the cities also grew homelessness and crimes. And to this catastrophic situation, the country was led by the confrontation between Catholics and Protestants, who were persecuted almost as well as the witches pursued by the Inquisition. At the end, it turned into a civil war. Protestants were supported by England, Spain reinforced the Catholics. In the end, the war led the leader of the Protestants, Henry of Navarre, to a royal throne. He took the politically right thing by converting to Catholicism and was crowned King of France. He tried to reconcile militant Catholics with their opponents and condemned the most brutal fanatics of the Catholic Church. For this the king got excommunicated by Pope Clement. Overall, King Henry did a lot for the country's peace. He commanded to restore the Catholic established churches and equalized Protestants in rights with the Catholic. (Smitha, 2015). Gradually, the relationship of these ardent opponents adjusted. However, they did not go the way of mutual tolerance and reconciliation, they took the path of persuasion each other in their rightness. Pope Pius XI at the beginning of the twentieth century encouraged the return of Protestants to the Catholic Church, claiming that it is the only way to achieve unity. In turn, the Protestants tried to persuade Catholics in the truth of their faith. And as a result, they have not learned to co-exist together, instead, they attempted to convince each other that they are the true Christians. And the normal communication of these two movements has not been established so far (Peterson, n.d.).
Thus, the relationship between Catholics and Protestants in France and the Holy Roman Empire can be described as very tense. The divergence in opinion between Catholics and Protestants led to a bloody civil war, which has claimed thousands of lives and gave nothing but a collapse of the economy and the huge increase in crime. Hatred for Protestants began in the Holy Roman Empire, and France has identified as an example of the most stubborn opposition. Any social relations between the two rival camps were impossible. Although, at some point, Protestantism was recognized in France, still people professing it were persecuted. Despite the fact that some Protestants were in the highest political circles, Catholics enjoyed greater success among the ordinary people. As for Rome, there people spoke about Protestants only as about the heretics, which shall be burned at the stake. Yet despite widespread persecution, Protestantism was gaining in popularity and it was impossible to fight it in France, even with the most dramatic measures. But in general, for Rome and for the French people Protestant were dissidents. That is why after the first religious war Protestant king of France, Henry has taken Catholicism. He knew that only as a Catholic he could influence people eager to eradicate Protestantism. And only having gained the confidence of Catholics, he could reconcile them with the representatives of other branches of Christianity. Thus, the relationship between Catholics and Protestants were terrible. They not only did not respect each other, they hated and despised each other, and were ready to go for the kill due to self-righteousness. And despite the fact that the rage subsided with time, representatives of the various branches still prefer not to listen to each other.
Comparing trends, which have developed relations between Christians and Muslims in the Ottoman Empire and the Catholic-Protestant dialogue, it can be said that they have evolved completely differently. To start with, it should be noted that Protestantism as a separate movement was formed relatively recently compared to Islam and Christianity. So if Muslims and Christians in the Ottoman Empire could, at least, respect each other, between Catholics and Protestants such relations could not have arisen. It could not happen because for the Catholic Church Protestants were apostates and rebels who have encroached on the very essence of the Church of Rome. And if Muslims and Christians lived quite separately and did not criticize each other, Protestants and Catholics had constantly questioned each other's beliefs. As the cause of mutual hatred between members of different branches of Christianity can distinguish their similarity of views on some issues. Yet they were all Christians, though they interpreted the Bible and sacred covenants differently. At the same time, customs and beliefs of Muslims and Christians have been very different, these two religions have long disagreed and the debate about who is right had disappeared. But, Catholics and Protestants had just started their dispute so the debates were heated and emotional.
Protestants and Orthodox Christians were religious minorities in the countries concerned, and they had different rights. Christians had to pay a tax imposed on their community while the Protestants were not imposed any additional taxes. Moreover, marriages between Muslims and Christians have been limited. That is a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman, and in a marriage of the Muslim husband and the Christian wife their children automatically became Muslims. Such problems the Protestants and Catholics did not have. Generally, in terms of legislation Protestants and Catholics in France did not differ. However, it should be borne in mind that Protestantism as a religion was recognized not immediately while the Ottoman Empire recognized the existence of the Christian orthodox church. In the Ottoman Empire new churches were not built, but also, they were not burned. In France, the opinion prevailed that the Protestant churches are evil and so were often ignited by the particularly ardent Catholics. Thus, the main difference between the relations of Muslims and Orthodox Christians and the relations between Catholics and Protestants was their position in terms of the country legislation. The Orthodox Church was recognized as faith, so had a number of rights and duties. They could perform rituals and pray in accordance with the rules laid down for their community. Sometimes these laws were not entirely fair, but they helped the followers of different religions coexist peacefully. Protestants were in a different position. Not being accepted by the state, they could not expect to have some additional rules to ensure their safety. They were declared heretics by the Roman Church, so the law did not protect them. However, the position of Protestants compared with the orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire was one advantage. These were political rights, which had some high-Protestants. These leaders had the opportunity to influence the policy of the state towards their religion. So Protestants could fight for their rights with such support. As history had shown, they achieved the recognition and the right to follow their faith. This was not possible for the Christians in the Ottoman Empire, where all power was concentrated in the hands of Muslim leaders. Thus, the comparison turned out very controversial. On the one hand, the relative tolerance and the coexistence of the two religions with the infringement of the rights of one of them, that, however, ensure peace and prosperity. And on the other hand, the fierce opposition with the oppression of one religion towards another, but ultimately obtaining equal rights for both religions. And it is not clear what it is better. However, one thing is clear: in comparison with torn by religious wars the Holy Roman Empire and France, the Ottoman Empire was a standard of tolerance. The main difference between the relations of the representatives of different religions was in the presence or absence of obvious hatred and persecution. However, the similarity was too. It was the reluctance to understand and hear the representatives of other religions, each considered to be right only themselves and did not want to establish a communication between each other.
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