Of the over 6 billion people living among one another on planet Earth, almost everyone is a part of some religion. The five most popular faiths today are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Hinduism. The role of religion is to teach morals to follow through life; to teach hope. Through religion people are more comfortable with the reality that one day we will all die, because beyond the realm of death there exists a better place. However, the separate religious ideologies that followers of different faiths have so long identified with is a breeding ground for hatred and distrust. In all the thousands of years that religion has been around, it has been the cause of mass wars and remarkable disagreement. One of the most prominent causes for religious conflict is the everlasting desire for land in a dispute for control driven by the word of God, especially between the religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in Jerusalem, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The source of the Crusades, a series of religious wars, was the fact that the ancient city of Jerusalem was intrinsic to three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Christians believed it was the place where Jesus was crucified and ascended to heaven, Muslims believed it was where Muhammad ascended to heaven, and Jews believed it was the site of the ancient temple built by Solomon. The belief that Jerusalem was a holy land became an established teaching for each religion. The Crusades were great military expeditions undertaken by the Christian nations of Europe for the purpose of rescuing the holy places of Palestine from the control of the Muslims, specifically the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Will of the Lord prompted religious leaders to believe the land belonged to them. Regarding the conquest of Jerusalem, Saladin, the Muslim commander, wrote a letter justifying his religious position. He wrote, “The Commandment of the truth of God, which was powerless, is now in vigour … God has performed the promise he made to raise his religion above all religions.” According to Saladin, the religion of Islam is most important to God, and this gives him a ferocious sense of entitlement toward the Holy Land. For Catholic Christians, the goal was the liberation of Jerusalem and the other places made spiritual by the holy life of Christ. When calling the Fifth Crusade in 1215, Innocent III wrote: “Consider most dear sons that if any temporal king was thrown out of his domain and perhaps captured, would he not ... look on his vassals as unfaithful and traitors unless they had committed not only their property but also their persons to the task of freeing him?” In the eyes of ecclesiastical leaders, those who truly devote their lives to God would surrender themselves and all of their personal belongings in order to defend Him. In the article In Arabic, Jerusalem is Jewish by Simcha Jacobovici, it is said that “Jerusalem is central to the idea of the return of the Jewish people to its ancient homeland. The modern political movement called ‘Zionism’ is an attempt to ... return to the mountain of the Holy Temple.” This shows that people of the three opposing faiths not only saw Jerusalem as a territorial dispute, but a conquest encouraged by their God to defend the holy place in which they saw as the origin for their faith. The cultural universal of religion was what stimulated the commitment to regaining Jerusalem and other land.
The driving force for the Israel/Palestine conflict, which began in the mid 20th century and is still ongoing today, is the strife regarding land which both the Israelis and Palestinians consider their own. This conflict began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the birth of major nationalist movements among the Jews and Arabs, both with familiar goal and interest of obtaining power for their people. The fundamental issues in this nationalist conflict all relate to land: borders, settlements, and