Yesterday, 24 August, was the anniversary of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris in 1572.
The recent news of massacres by ISIS in Syria and Iraq reminds us of the need to investigate seriously the dynamics of religious violence.
Jacques Sapir, an economist at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, offered his reflections on the significance of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre this week.
Sapir claims, following a well-established line of historiography, that the separation of religion from the public space emerged during the latter stages of the French Wars of Religion, as Henri IV suppressed the Catholic League and established the Bourbon dynastic state. Sapir sees the creation of this form of laïcité, or secularism, in the aftermath of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre as the most important legacy of this horrifying event.
Sapir believes that “religious fanaticism” guides ISIS’s actions in Syria and Iraq. He implies that the massacres committed by ISIS should prompt a similar separation of religion and the public space in the Islamic world today.
Whether or not this is the most relevant lesson to draw from the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, it is refreshing to see scholars attempting to analyze religious violence using historical comparisons.
See Jacques Sapir’s website for his piece on the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.