Delving into fundamental differences: CNN documentary examines 3 religions

Christiane Amanpour is on vacation in France. Sort of. The CNN star also is putting the finishing touches on a six-hour documentary airing next week about the often volatile mix of politics and religion.

She has spent the past eight months on the project, traveling around the world — to the West Bank to spend time with Jewish settlers, to Iran to film Shiite Muslims, to the United States to sit down with Christian conservative Jerry Falwell just before his death, and to Jerusalem, ground zero for all three religions.

The result is “God’s Warriors,” a provocative look at the fundamentalist foot soldiers who fight in the name of their faith.

“I just feel it’s really one of the quintessential issues of our time,” Amanpour says via telephone from western France, where she’s on vacation with her family.

She hopes the documentary will open people’s eyes “to a reality that people either don’t know about, don’t know enough about or don’t want to know about.”

Keep your eyes closed at your own peril, she adds.

This from a woman who has been on the front lines of Iraq, reported on the 1 million orphans left behind by the AIDS epidemic in Kenya and followed the footsteps of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Of course, she would argue, many of those stories have roots in religion — particularly religious extremism.

Violence — whether committed in the name of the Bible, the Torah or the Koran — has become an offspring of the marriage between piety and politics. But her documentary argues that it’s only one offspring. Consider the Christian right in America, for instance, where the battleground has centered around secular laws and popular culture.

“They are three different religions,” she says. “The extremes in each three do very different things. The thing in common is they want to change the world.”

Amanpour is one of the most respected television journalists working today. The 49-year-old reporter has scored some of the top prizes in broadcasting: two Peabody Awards, multiple Emmys and the Paul White Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. She’s also won a Courage in Journalism Award.

She and her husband, James Rubin, former U.S. State Department spokesman under President Clinton, live in London with their 7-year-old son, Darius. They plan to move to the United States in September, though she will continue to work as chief international correspondent for CNN.

Amanpour was born in England but spent several years of her childhood in Iran. She says the experience gave her an appreciation of many religions. She will not talk about her own faith life.

Her three-part series does not reach a conclusion. But when asked for one, she thinks back to the tumultuous peace process in northern Ireland.

“They had to get beyond the religious imperatives of either side, whether it be the Protestants or the Catholics,” says Amanpour. “They had to sort out and hammer out a peace accord based on their mutual interests as human beings and the necessity of these people, all of them, for a just and fair and proper future.”

As she finalizes “God’s Warriors,” she admits to feeling a little discouraged — at least in the short term. “I just feel that peace is going to take more than just everybody adhering to their own religious belief.”

There is hope for the long term, she says. “But it’s going to take bravery. It’s going to take a view to the future that goes beyond a special interest of any type, whether it be religious or otherwise.”

“God’s Warriors”

Chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour looks at the fundamentalist foot soldiers on the front lines of the culture wars and violence carried out in the name of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

When: Tuesday-Thursday, 9 p.m.
Where: CNN


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Sandi Dolbee, San Diego Union-Tribune, Aug. 18, 2007,

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 20, 2007.
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