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I-Reporters quiz CNN's Amanpour

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  • Amanpour: World needs "committed" leaders to tackle tough issues
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Editor's note: This is part of a series of reports CNN.com is featuring from a documentary, "God's Warriors," hosted by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour says she believes the world has entered an "age of religious politics."

CNN's Christiane Amanpour says she believes the world has entered an "age of religious politics."

LONDON (CNN) -- The world needs courageous, committed leaders with a "genuine desire to reach compromise" to tackle the world's most thorny issues, especially where religion and politics intersect, CNN's Christiane Amanpour says.

CNN.com asked users to send questions to Amanpour as part of "CNN Presents" documentary, "God's Warriors."

Here, Amanpour answers your questions:

Jack Wilson of Cannes, France: How can you even begin to compare Islamic extremists with Christians or Jews? How can you even put them in the same sentence?

Amanpour: We're not comparing. We're showing that each faith has their committed and fervent believers, and we're showing how each of those are active in the political sphere in today's world. Video Go behind the scenes with Amanpour in Amsterdam »

Robert Preece of Rotterdam, Netherlands: Dear Christiane Amanpour, You are a voice in the world that many people trust, sometimes considerably more than their politicians. In your experience and insights, have you seen clear and effective ways that can significantly improve the situations in relation to "God's Warriors" and extremism?

Amanpour: Robert, there are all sorts of ways. For instance, I've seen religious conflicts that are really political -- but masquerading as religious -- having been solved, such as between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, between Muslims and Christians in Bosnia, and between the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs there.

God's Warriors
CNN's Christiane Amanpour examines the effects of Christianity as a powerful political force around the world.
Thursday, 9 p.m. ET

But it takes leadership. It takes a real committed, courageous and determined leadership to get beyond an individual's religious or ethnic or special interest. That's the only way these things are going to be solved.

Terrorism is a different thing. Terrorism has to be defeated. But terrorism is a symptom of other things, and it's very hard. It's been shown that the war on terror can't just be fought militarily. It has to be done in many, many different ways -- hearts and minds, financial, good intelligence, good policy and all the rest of it.

Susan Moore of Clayton, Georgia: ... Did you come away eased and heartened, or with the feeling that this is an insolvable, permanent human condition?

Amanpour: I don't believe it's an insolvable, permanent human condition. But I do think that we are in an age of religious politics or political religiosity, and it could last for some time. This is not to say that good politics, good policy and good diplomacy can't soften the edges of some of the extremism we see.

But that's going to take committed and courageous leadership. And it's going to take not pandering to those who believe that only they can interpret God's word and to those that believe politics should reflect religion.

Regina Bowling of Charleston, South Carolina: I believe we are watching the gathering up of energy worldwide in the form of religious intolerance for the "perfect storm" of global holy war. Do you see any compromise one could offer to calm these hysterical masses and avoid ultimate disaster?

Amanpour: I don't see right now the potential for global holy war. It's true that way back centuries ago that daily life -- including politics, governance and kingdoms -- were ruled with religion as one of the bases for power. And, of course, today we've come to expect that a modern, progressive system of government is one that is political and secular.

But what we're seeing is that because there's so much alienation around the world ... [and] people are reacting to a world they seem afraid of, many people have turned back to religion. In some cases, it's the only form of politics and the only form of political expression. In other cases, it gives them a sense of identity. Still other cases, it's a reaction based on fear of the culture they see around them.

But as far as I'm concerned, as long as people believe that only their holy book or only their holy word matters and is relevant, then there will be no solution. And that's why it takes committed and courageous leadership to provide an answer and solution that addresses the greater good for all.

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Rachel Ford of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Christiane, you were raised in an environment where you were exposed to multiple religions. You have spent your career discussing and reporting on religion and politics. Doing this report, looking at the world through the eyes of those who see God in such extreme ways, are you afraid of where we are going?

Amanpour: I am slightly today, because I don't see good leadership, and so that does frighten me. I think it's a real problem today that a lot of the political crises, which are religious in flavor, could be solved by better and more inclusive political leadership -- and a genuine desire to reach compromise. It also takes a genuine desire to be brave and look at a real solution to a problem, rather than pander to the special interests on any given issue.

Asnawi Maamor of Manila, Philippines: The three religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- believe in God but why is it that Islam, the successor of the first two, is always misunderstood for being the odd one?

Amanpour: Well, because the world's focus has been on Islam, particularly Islamic extremism and terrorist violence, mostly because of September 11, 2001 -- because of those attacks on the United States. And so there have been many reactions to that: fear and anger, as well as in other quarters a desire to try to understand and figure out what is behind all this.

At the same time, I think we need to be very careful because while this strain of al Qaeda-ism and terrorism is an unacceptable expression of any kind of action, there is a difference between terrorist violence and those who believe that religion should be the basis for political life -- whether they be Muslim or others. And we make that distinction in the documentary.

Marcos T. of Sacramento, California: If the majority of fundamentalists in any religion are peaceful and do renounce violence against people of other religions, why is it that the radical minority has dictated what has been happening for the past 100 years and the majority are unable (or perhaps unwilling) to stop them?

Amanpour: I do think that is a problem that afflicts society very often -- that unfortunately the very vocal minority often dominates the political stage. As some have said, it is the extremes -- whether on the left or right -- who are so committed as to be motivated and mobilized to go out and shout the loudest and work the hardest to get their points and their rhetoric across.

And that's why I again say it really does take very courageous and committed leadership to get solutions that benefit society that are based on justice and equal rights for all. It can't be a solution that involves the dictatorship that involves either the majority or the minority.

Dennis Huston of Warrington, Pennsylvania: Can we still negotiate with God's warriors or is it too late?

Amanpour: Dennis, it's not too late, and it depends on the type of warriors. I don't think there's any negotiating to be done with al Qaeda. I think these people have to be defeated. But they're not necessarily going to be defeated militarily. They have to be defeated by removing the conditions that lend them support among certain masses, and that means solving some of the world's most intractable problems, particularly those that involve thorny religious issues.

There are many so-called God's warriors who are really frightened and disgusted by what they see as a militantly secular society. I think that many, particularly Christians in the United States, feel that religion has become sort of a dirty word in society -- that faith has been banished from the public sphere. So their reaction is against what they call a militant secularism.

Donna J. Wert of Spirit Lake, Iowa: What are the positive concepts in the Christian faith that would build "a bridge" with other faiths?

Amanpour: Actually some of the Christian right have been extremely successful in persuading their government to help, for instance, to try to bring peace in the Sudan, between the northern Islamic Sudanese government and the southern rebels. They've been fighting for more than 20 years there, and it was the Christian right that persuaded the government of George W. Bush to get involved and help provide a political solution to this.

I think the Christian right, some of whom we featured in our program, have decided that they need to get involved and get Christians involved and mobilized on the environment -- that this is the Earth that God created and, therefore, we as human beings need to look after it. That's very positive and, of course, it's a big issue of our time.

I also believe that many of the Christian right pastors we talked with said citizens, especially Christians, should mobilize against poverty at home and that they should mobilize against injustice and racism, as well as look very carefully at some of the deep social afflictions that are present in the United States.

Roberta Briffa of Malta: As a theology student I am really looking forward to watching "God's Warriors". What I really appreciate is the fact that you chose to discuss and report on all three faiths and not just concentrate on one or two.

My question is this: How do you manage to remain calm when you confront dangerous situations in the countries you visit or when you research and report on delicate issues such as those on "God's Warriors"?

Amanpour: Experience helps. Knowing many of the countries that we visited and having been there before helps. Knowing that I have a reputation as a fair, objective, fact-based correspondent gives me a certain credibility with whom I'm interviewing.

David Blackburn of Fayetteville, Arkansas: Despite the fact that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all require worship of the God of Abraham and have the doctrine of loving other people, many followers of one of the above faiths hate the others. Do you think that this hatred stems from a lack of knowledge about what the faiths have in common?

Amanpour: One of the things we asked a lot of the people we interviewed was: What do they think about the other religion?

We're talking about very fervent fundamentalists of all faiths, and we asked them about the other two religions. They were all very careful in what they said. We didn't really hear much hatred. They all talked about the dignity of the other religion. So I think there is a respect by each religion to the other religions.

But I think where it gets really tricky is when politics gets involved and when it's a questions of war and peace and land and other such things.

Tracy Goordman of Oak Ridge, New Jersey: What have you learned from the average person in these countries about their feelings towards women and their role in society?

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Amanpour: Tracy, I would just say in general, fundamentalism of any religion is not good for women. Fundamentalism is a patriarchal system and it does not seek to empower women. There are differing degrees of that between the different religions.

But fundamentally, in many of the religions, there are not serious leadership roles for women, and it is a patriarchal system. Women's rights are something that each and every woman all over the world has to be very careful to lobby for and protect.

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