Goffs School Religious Studies

Topic 4 – Religion, War and Peace

Key words and concepts

Conflict: a state of discord or war.

War: a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.

Peace: an absence of conflict which leads to happiness and harmony.

Justice: bringing about what is right and fair according to the law or making up for what has been done wrong.

Sanctity of life: life is sacred because it is God-given.

Pacifism: the belief of people who refuse to take part in war and any form of violence.

Just War: a theory developed by Thomas Aquinas. It is a war that the Christian church defines as acceptable (see below for more details).

Jihad: Islamic holy war (see below for more details).

Why do people go to war?

  • to defend their country
  • to defend their beliefs, religion, freedom and way of life or to impose them on others
  • to defend or protect an ally
  • to remove their own leader
  • to gain more land/territory
  • to gain wealth, power or important resources
  • to stop genocide

Key conflicts

  • the Crusades
  • Vietnam war
  • the Falkland’s conflict
  • Gaza/Palestine

Consequences of war

  • death
  • injury
  • destruction of culture, economy and infrastructure (including poverty)
  • freedom
  • disease and famine
  • cost

Just War Theory

Just War Theory was first written about by Thomas Aquinas. He was a Roman Catholic theologian/philosopher. Many other Christian groups agree with it. A ‘Just War’ must fit certain criteria. Under these criteria a war:

  • have a just cause
  • be lawfully declared by a proper authority
  • have good intention
  • be a last resort
  • have reasonable chance of success
  • be fought by just means and in proportion
  • only occur if the good outweighs the evil

Jihad: Holy War

Jihad (holy war): fighting for a religious cause or God. Muslims believe fighting is a duty (lesser jihad) if Islam or Muslims are under threat. There is a strict criteria. For example, a war must be:

  • fought for God
  • a last resort
  • conducted fairly
  • for the protection of civilians
  • for the restoration of peace
  • the war ends when the aim is met

A ‘greater jihad’ is the struggle within, so holy war is the ‘lesser jihad’. Despite Islamic terrorism and war in the Islamic world, jihad should rule out weapons of mass destruction in most cases as they kill many people; terrorism or any use of violence to create fear or which leads to the indiscriminate targeting of civilians is also unacceptable. War should also avoid promoting minority views. A genuine jihad will seek to avoid creating refugees. This is when people are forced to leave their homes and countries to find safety.

Peace keepers

Peacekeepers police areas of conflict to promote security, law and order. There are peacekeepers in many parts of the world including the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Peacekeeping organisations include NATO and the United Nations.

Support for victims of war

Many organisations support victims of war. These include the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. They offer support to refugees, check on prisoners of war and help when war causes a humanitarian crisis.

Christian views on war and peace

There are many teachings from the Bible that warn against war and violence. These include:

  • “Those who live by the sword die by the sword”
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers as they will inherit the earth”
  • “Love thy neighbour”
  • “Treat others as you would like to be treated”
  • “Turn the other cheek”
  • “Thou shall not kill”

Although Christians may support war if it fulfils the Just War criteria (see above), some Christians, such as Quakers, are pacifists and refuse to fight.

Buddhist views on war and peace

Despite Buddhist violence in countries like Burma and Sri Lanka, Buddhists should be against all wars and violence.  For example, non-violent teachings include:

  • The first precept – do not harm another living thing
  • Karma – fighting and war will lead to bad karma and a bad rebirth
  • Metta – war does not show loving kindness

However, maybe war can be conducted if the intention outweighs the evil. This would be ‘Right Intention’. An example might be fighting to end genocide.

Islamic views on war and peace

These are outlined above (see Jihad: Holy War). Muslims do not support unjust wars. Basically war is only acceptable as a lesser jihad; to fight in the name of Allah. Islamic teachings suggest “Allah loves those who fight in his name”

Individuals against conflict

Mahatma Gandhi – a Hindu leader who campaigned against British rule in India and apartheid in South Africa. Gandhi emphasised a need for Hindu ‘ahimsa’ (non – violence). He also developed the principle of satyagraha (resistance through non violence).

Dalai Lama – the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet who campaigns for Tibetan liberation from Chinese rule. Although forced into exile by the Chinese government, he believes all violence is wrong as it goes against the first precept – not to harm others. He has become an international symbol for peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. – American civil rights leader who campaigned against the Vietnam War as well as racial segregation.