Terror and Faith – Jessie Childs at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015


Jessie Childs (Extreme Left) , Ahmed Rashid (Left), Llewelyn Morgan (Right), and William Pinch (Extreme Right), moderated by Peter Frankopan (Middle)

As the five luminaries take their seats on the stage, the front lawns seem to look fresher than it was yesterday. The rain gods sure did a good job of gifting us a refreshing second day at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

The five authors present are here to discuss the links between terrorism, violence and religion throughout history and literature and William Pinch begins with an extraordinary example to begin to discuss the same as he compares Nathuram Godse’s salutation to Gandhi, right before his assassination to the event in history of Dhronacharya’s acceptance of Ekalavya’s skills only to ask for him to cut off his thumb. The comparison of the two instances, not only set the ball rolling for the discussion of the ways in which terrorism, violence and religion are linked but also how religion and mythology will always drive political action.

8Peter Frankopan throws a question to his fellow speakers, “What does faith actually mean?” he says, “Most of the people who turn up to the mosque don’t know how to read the Quran, they are just there.” This point raised by Frankopan raises many questions in the mind of the reader. Is faith imposed on us? Is there a presence, however subtly, of violence threatening us to have faith? The questions are enormous, the answers even more so.

Jessie Childs further gets our curiosity going, “Religion and politics cannot be separated,” she states. History has always been witness to religion and politics being “inextricably linked”. In fact her most recent book, “God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England” discusses the criminalization of Catholics during the Elizabethan “Golden Age”. The tensions and insecurities that plagued Catholics living under the rule of Elizabeth I form the central theme of her book and yet again gets us thinking about the illusion of free-will in faith.

Ahmed Rashid contributes yet another radical point to this discussion. He urges the audience to understand and realise that the acts of violence being committed are not mere acts of a region in particular but acts of individual violence. They have always been and will continue to be acts of individuals and no one region can be blamed for it. “You cannot eliminate religion, nor can you eliminate culture. Culture and religion are inextricably linked. “Yet another reminder to the engaged audience that the links between religion, politics and culture cannot be broken.

Llewelyn Morgan gives to the audience something that we all knew but as individuals in a society, are never willing to accept. “Religion is the most powerful way of dividing people”. The audience is quiet. There are no screams of disagreement because somewhere, we all know that it is true.

10As the session comes to an end Jessie Childs urges us to think on a track that we would willingly never choose. “De-humanization of the enemies is the problem. The fear of the enemy is taught right from the beginning and somewhere we forget that they are humans” We never choose to look at our enemies as humans. We have forever thought of them as devils. But what if they are just one of us? What if they are us?

Food for thought? Yes, please.


About Jessie Childs

Jessie Childs is an award-winning author and historian. She was born in London, England, in 1976 and went to the University of Oxford, where she read history and took a first-class honours degree.

Her first book, Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK in 2006 and by St Martin’s Press in the USA in 2007. Described by A.N. Wilson in the Telegraph as ‘a truly superb biography’, it won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography in 2007.

Jessie’s second book, God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England, was published by Bodley Head in the UK in March 2014 to widespread critical acclaim.


Get her book God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith here: bit.ly/1zSNkwr


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