Irfan Yusuf, a Sydney lawyer and writer at the seemingly-defunct blog The Aussie Mossie (which hasn't been updated since September, alas), has reviewed a new book by Natalie Zemon Davis, who Wikipedia dubs "an American feminist and historian of early modern France".
The book is about a Muslim of the 16th century who converted to Catholicism and became useful to the elite of Rome before the sack of that city by soldiers of Charles V, "and [the] virtual imprisonment of Pope Clement VII in 1527 [which] prevented him from annulling the marriage of Henry VIII of England and Charles's aunt Catherine of Aragon, with important consequences".
Notably, the establishment of the Anglican Communion.
Yusuf at one point refers to "a rebellious German monk named Martin Luther" who "was poised to lead a theological revolt that would usher in the reformation and centuries of sectarian bloodshed".
The phrase "was poised to lead" is more apt than otherwise. The fact is, however, that schism within the church had been brewing for centuries. We are fortunate to have Wikipedia for, although it tends to provide only the slimmest of resources, it at least allows us to see the outlines of developments within the European church that are frequently ignored nowadays.
We can track sectarianism in Christendom back, century after century, until we arrive at the earliest days of the Christian religion.
The bloodshed had been going on for centuries before Luther, and we diminish the importance of this struggle for a unified, popular voice, if we ignore these obscure roots. I also think it is not quite fair of Yusuf to end his summation of the Protestant Reformation with the words "centuries of sectarian bloodshed". Yet, on the other hand, it is revealing that he does so.
Yesterday on Al Jazeera, I watched one-time-president Iyad Allawi call for "reconciliation" in Iraq as a necessary condition for peace. In the context of the truly remarkable revolution that occurred in Europe in the middle of the Renaissance, it appears likely that fighting between the sects of Islam in Iraq, and the continued alienation of Baathists and members of the military before the arrival of coalition forces, will continue until all parties are thoroughly sick of the carnage.
Which doesn't seem to be imminent, based on current casualty levels in Iraq.