Is warfare ever justified?'

Is warfare ever justified?'

June 30, 2006
Written by Daniel Hazard

How earnestly are we teaching love, non-violence?

Day after day, we are depressed by the news of more death and destruction in Iraq, plus reports of conflict and death in Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine and other nations. Is there a way of ending the conflicts and building a world where justice and peace prevail? A perfect society is out of the question, but certainly a more just and peaceful world community is a goal for which we must strive.

We need to begin, I believe, by reflecting seriously on the predominant thought-forms, attitudes and actions which are widespread in our world today. For centuries, people have made warfare an acceptable and appropriate form of action. If a group or nation appears to be your enemy, then invade or destroy it before it brings harm to you and your people. If an ethnic group is different, get rid of it or exploit it for your own gain.

Religious bodies - Christian, Jewish, Muslim and others - have generally been quick to bless warfare and violence. How much attention, for example, have we who are Christian paid to Jesus' teachings: "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Turn the other cheek," "Walk the second mile," "Love God, love neighbor" and even "Love your enemies"? Have we really listened to prophets like Micah who said, "Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God?"

. I am impressed by what the American Friends Service Committee describes as "bedrock principles:"

. Live simply and be straightforward in your dealings with others.

. Work for justice and peace, even when it is unpopular.

. See that of God in every person.

. Know that each man, woman and child merits respect and our compassion.

Is warfare ever justified? Developed by Christian theologians in the fourth and fifth centuries, the just-war tradition argued that a war was justified only if fought in self defense, had peaceful intent, was conducted by legitimate rulers, if victory was certain, if civilians would not be harmed, if benefits exceeded harm and if it was the last resort.

Personally, I do not regard the Iraq war as a just war. Invasion was not our last resort and some other conditions of a just war were not met.

As we continue to seek peace and order in Iraq and, along with other nations, seek a non-nuclear Iran, we must also engage in long-range planning about the kind of world out children and grandchildren might inhabit.

What are the values we are sharing? How earnestly are we, as pastors and congregations, teaching non-violence and love for all people?

We need to express these values in our daily living as we seek, with God's help, to build a world community in which all persons are valued and given opportunities for life at its fullest.

The Rev. William H. Daniels of Lancaster, Pa., is a retired pastor, Conference staff member and former missionary in China and Australia. 

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