Experts often debate on what is the effective catalyst in the mobilization of the masses. Some argue that sectarian values or motives are the primary factor behind most mass movements. The World Trade Center bombings in 1993 and 2001 were the handiwork of Muslim extremists who used Islam as a justification for terrorism. Peoples Temple, the organization behind the Jonestown Massacre in 1978, espoused socialism that was tempered by Christian doctrines (Moore, Pinn and Sawyer, 2004).
Others, meanwhile, claim that ethnic values or motives are the catalyst in several mass movements. The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was the culmination of the ethnic strife between the Tutsis and the Hutus (Werle, 2006). The German public’s overwhelming support of the Nazis during World War II was primarily due to their resentment of their Jewish compatriots. Although Jews were a minority group in Germany, they dominated much of the country’s public life (Lindemann, 2000).
But the truth is that both sectarian and ethnic motives are effective catalysts in the mobilization of the masses. In many societies, religious affiliation and ethnic background are inseparable. Ethnic groups, particularly those with a homogenous culture, usually adhere to a specific faith. Thus, these parties base their respective identities on religion and ethnicity.
In addition, religion and ethnicity can be forms of compensation for the lack of political unity in a given society. Religious affiliation and ethnic background could provide semblances of common identity and unity (Sanders, Morillo and Nelson, 2005). Feelings of unity and shared identity, in turn, can motivate a given community to select leaders that would serve their interests.
History would show that both sectarian and ethnic motives are effective catalysts in the mobilization of the masses. But more often than not, unscrupulous parties use religious affiliation and ethnic background in order to achieve their vested agenda. In the end, the best alternative would still be a society where everyone, regardless of race, creed or social status, would have equal opportunities for advancement. A safe and just society would ensue only if its members viewed each other as fellow human beings rather than in terms of their faith and or ethnicity.
Lindemann, A.S. (2000). Esau’s Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Moore, R., Pinn, A.B., & Sawyer, M.R. (2004). Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Sanders, T., Morillo, S., & Nelson, S.H. (2005). Encounters in World History: Sources and Themes from the Global Past, Volume II: From 1500. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Werle, G. (2006). Justice in Transition – Prosecution and Amnesty in Germany and South Africa. Berlin: BWV.