Principal teachings about peace in Christianity Heart of Jesus’ ministry The teaching of the New Testament affirms the centrality of peace to the Christian message. It was at the heart of the life and ministry of Jesus and accordingly is sought after and taken up by the communities that seek to follow Jesus. Peace is understood as more than merely an absence of violence and conflict. It refers more fully to an overall sense of wellbeing. Ultimately peace is found in union with God.
Christians are taught to live at peace with others, both within their own communities and in the wider human family. Christian pacifism Throughout the first three centuries Of the common era Christians adopted a pacifist position and refused to engage in military service or warfare. This was a position that contributed to them being marginal’s in the wider community and persecuted by the Roman authorities. Yet despite the hardships, Christians as a whole refused to engage in warfare, believing that to do so would be contrary to their faith.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
The conversion of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century introduced Christians to a new situation where they were now part of the establishment and the empire was their ally ether than a threat to their existence. This new situation led to a rethinking of the position of the Christian Church in relation to its involvement in warfare. Philosophical challenges This new situation created a number of philosophical challenges to the pacifist stance held by the Christians.
They now had to consider how they could maintain and guarantee the freedom of people in the society, in pa reticular their religious freedom. They also had to consider how to protect their property from theft or destruction. Another problem related to the protection of innocent people in the light of acts of aggression by others. These and other similar concerns forced the Christian Church to compromise its hard line stance against military involvement and the use of warfare. The Just War Theory The challenges of this new situation over time led to the development of a just war theory.
This theory originated from Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in the fourth century and was modified and refined by various people over the centuries including Thomas Aquinas in the middle ages and Francisco De Aviator in the 16th century. Morally acceptable cause The “Just War” theory sought to establish guidelines under which it was morally acceptable to engage in warfare. The Just War theory is the source of ongoing debate and although it has considerable standing among Christian denominations it is, nevertheless, problematic in theory as well as in practice.
The Just War theory maintains that nations are morally justified in waging war providing that the circumstances of the conflict and the waging of the war meet the following seven principles. 1. War must be aimed at repelling or deterring aggression and safeguarding human rights. 2. It must be authorized by a legitimate authority. 3. The stated objectives for going to war must be the real ones. 4. War must e a last resort; all peaceful alternatives must be exhausted. 5. The probability of success must be sufficiently clear to justify the human and other costs. 6.
The damage inflicted by war must be proportionate to its objectives. 7. Noncombatants must not be targeted. Application of Just War Theory Some would argue that there has never been a war which meets all seven requirements of the Just War theory and indeed the nature of warfare itself is intrinsically contradictory to many of the elements of the Just War theory. The difficulty in practice is how to determine the legitimacy of a claim of a “Just War”. In the 2003 Gulf War, US President George W Bush used the claim Of a “Just War” to refute opposition to his plan to invade Iraq.
Various religious authorities had publicly stated their opposition, saying that the planned invasion was not morally justified. In this case, both parties were appealing to the same seven principles of the Just War theory to support their claims and were arriving at opposite conclusions. A brief analysis of each of these principles readily highlights some of the difficulties. Safeguarding human rights 1 War must be aimed at repelling or deterring aggression and safeguarding unman rights. The type of chaos and disorder that results from military conflict makes it impossible to monitor or safeguard human rights.
The very act of destruction which is integral to combat inevitably destroys much of the infrastructure required to sustain basic rights such as food, water, shelter etc. Usually there is a prolonged period of disorder before basic infrastructure can be restored. In this time human rights violations are inevitable. Mandate to decide 1. It must be authorized by a legitimate authority. Even in the case of a democratically elected government declaring war, there s still an aspect of debate. The case of Australia’s involvement in the 2003 Gulf War saw the Prime Minister commit Australian troops to combat without reference to the Parliament.
Additionally, some would suggest that a government does not have the right to engage in warfare unless it was specifically elected with that mandate. A further aspect of the Gulf War is the fact that Australian troops were committed to war when the United Nations remained opposed to the war and was urging the American led coalition to refrain from conflict until further efforts at peaceful resolution of differences ere pursued. The question here is who exactly is the legitimate authority? Multiple causes of conflict 1 . The stated objectives for going to war must be the real ones.
There is seldom a single clear reason for engaging in warfare. Frequently the principal catalyst for the beginning of the war is the final element in a series of grievances that may date back for generations or even centuries. Therefore the stated reasons or objectives are often only a part of the real or true reasons. In the case of the 2003 Gulf war, the declared cause to engage in warfare was the existence of weapons of mass destruction. In the years following the declaration of war there has not any validation of this claim.
Various theories have been proposed concerning the real reasons for the war, however, this instance of conflict highlights the difficulties in meeting this requirement. Strategic advantage 1 . War must be a last resort; all peaceful alternatives must be exhausted. From a philosophical point of view it can be argued that there are always further peaceful alternatives to be explored and accordingly war, as the last resort, should never be taken up. In practice the parties choosing to engage in airfare are more concerned with gaining a strategic advantage and are thus not inclined to delay.
Further, they would argue that their cause is urgent and cannot wait until peaceful alternatives are exhausted. In the case of the 2003 Gulf War, the LOS led coalition were determined to proceed even though the United Nations weapons inspectors were asking for more time to complete their work as a peaceful alternative. The US authorities claimed that the risk posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction made the need to invade an urgent one. Others have suggested that the invasion took place in the
Northern spring as this timing avoided the harsh climatic conditions that would have prevailed if they had delayed. Prolonged conflict 1 . The probability of success must be sufficiently clear to justify the human and other costs. It is extremely difficult to judge the possibility Of success in any military engagement. Even when the one of the combatants has far superior military capabilities it does not guarantee success and certainly doesn’t ensure that the action will be quick, efficient and contained. In reality, conflicts are often prolonged and devastating in terms of the human cost.
Wars such as the Vietnam War, the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and the recent Gulf Wars highlight the difficulties. In each of these cases a military super power has been unable to quickly and efficiently achieve its goals. In the course of these prolonged conflicts, the local communities have suffered great cost for an extended period of time. Devastating military power 1 . The damage inflicted by war must be proportionate to its objectives. As time has gone by the capacity of military weapons has increased phenomenally and the extent of damage caused has likewise reached extraordinary proportions.
Due to capacity Of such weapons to inflict damage it is now patently impossible to engage in warfare where the damage is limited to something proportionate to the objectives. The destructive capabilities of modern weapons have led to extraordinary degrees of destruction in war zones. Accordingly it is unlikely that modern warfare can ever claim to limit the damage inflicted to something which is proportionate to its objectives. Innocent victims of warfare 1. Noncombatants must not be targeted. Increasingly in modern times, the victims of warfare are noncombatants rather than military personnel.
The nature of warfare in recent decades has seen the use of powerful weapons launched from considerable distances to attack targets. This has meant that those actively engaging in conflict are some distance from the target area or war zone. Thus, although there may not be a deliberate strategy to target noncombatants, inevitably many innocent people will suffer the consequences of the action. The application of the Just War theory remains problematic. In recent decades religious authorities have been virtually unanimous in their condemnation Of warfare. Peace and Justice Justice before peace
While a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the value of the Just War theory, in modern times an increasing emphasis has been brought to bear on the underlying causes of the conflicts that undermine peace. Leaders of the Christian Churches have increasingly focused their attention on the relationship between poverty, justice and human rights and the escalation of conflicts. They have argued powerfully that the world cannot expect to achieve peace without first achieving justice and that while so many people live in poverty and without basic human rights that there will always been unrest leading to conflict and violence.