The violence in the Bible and Quran had historical context. Both the early Jewish tribes and the early Muslim believers found themselves surrounded by hostile aggressors.
During the time of Moses, for example, the community's very survival was at stake. By necessity, there was "a time for war." At one point Moses even ordered the attack and extermination of entire villages (Numbers 31).
The teachings of Jesus focus on love and even the love of one's enemies (Matthew 5:45). Other statements by Jesus make clear, however, that war would continue: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). Christians have indeed raised the sword many times against perceived foes.
Muhammad, like Moses, was surrounded by hostile enemies. Muhammad and his early followers endured 13 years of persecution and exile by the dominant tribe of Mecca. But it was not until the Meccan army waged a full-scale attack that the Muslims took to battle. They were victorious and eventually marched to overtake Mecca and the surrounding areas. The rules of engagement of those wars were recorded in the Quran, but those conditions existed 1,400 years ago, not today.
The world is increasingly becoming religiously intermixed. We live in one global society. No armies are surrounding any religion. The focus now must shift to peace and reconciliation between the world religions.
The Baha'i Writings state, “In matters of religion every form of fanaticism, hatred, dissension and strife is strictly forbidden."
Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "Beware lest ye shed the blood of any one. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men’s hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war…”
Interfaith peace and reconciliation should not be seen as a vain hope, but the real and pressing need of our times. An important step is, of course, for all religions to abandon any notion of justifiable violence. Then the foundations for religious war and terrorism will gradually crumble.
"Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4), Such promises of the scriptures, according to Baha'i beliefs, are not a utopian dream, but a call to action to our times.