De Volkskrant (a Dutch newspaper) wrote today: ‘’Jihadleger neemt tweede stad Irak in.’’ (Jihad army takes over the second city in Iraq.) Here’s why it ties in with the goal of my hike.

Sunni Muslims of the ISIS movement want to form an Islamic state in parts of Syria and Iraq, the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. They recently took over control of Mosul in North Iraq. The Iraqi army was unable to stop ISIS and fled. What shocked me most was the suggestion made by the correspondent of the NOS. Sander van Hoorn said the Iraqi government could send Shi’ite militia’s to take up arms against ISIS because the Iraqi army is too demotivated to defend Mosul.

This proves the power of separation religion has. Even different currents within one religion can be set up against each other. This is nothing new. Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims have taken up arms against each other before. Protestant and Catholic Christians have done the same. In the Central African Republic we currently see a terrible war going on between Muslims and Christians. Both say they do not want to fight, but have to because they do not trust the other. Religious violence has always been dominant in the news.

A lot of studies have been done on the subject of religious violence. Two main lines of thought are dominant in this field. The first is the so-called realistic group theory. This states that ‘’religious‘’ conflicts are not about religion, but about (the lack of access to) resources, power, influence etc. If these resources were accessible to anyone, there would be no (religious) conflict. The second theory, the social identity theory, states that these religious conflicts arise because people have the tendency to categorize oneself and others in in-groups and out-groups. The fact that one belongs to another group is in itself reason enough to start a fight, so they say.

I have met a lot of religious people, both in Holland as well as abroad. Not all were open to other opinions and some of them tried hard to convert me. But all of them were friendly, open, hospitable and helpful. I want to know if (and hopefully show that) religion can still play a role in bringing people together and can be useful in creating a harmonious co-existence in Europe.

By walking through Europe and having encounters with the different religions, I hope to add some positive news to all the negativity which surrounds religion.