JUST WAR AND JUST PEACE
In this lesson, students in the video take a trip to a memorial for
the victims of all wars. Pay attention to the spoken words and the
reactions of students and the teacher.
During a football match in the schoolyard, Ahmed and Pieter-Jan got into an argument about a foul play. Pieter-Jan claiming that Ahmed tripped him just before he could score a goal, Ahmed objects that the foul never happened. The other classmates take sides, and schoolmates are divided into two groups. The tension between the divided class rises is later interrupted by the teacher and is resolved during the school trip to the memorial for the victims of all wars.
If you have questions, comments, or ideas while watching the video, you can write them down.
In this module, we will focus on a better understanding of the
that can lead to war. We will guide you through different aspects
of war, conflict, and a just society, fully aware that you would like to think
about something more pleasant. In fact, your happiness is very important
to us, which is why we need to address this issue – so we can have a
social discussion about emerging challenges,
and so you and
your friends can enjoy peace and prosperity in the future.
Let us start with basic concepts.
Conflicts are serious and enduring differences in values, beliefs, interests, and attitudes between individuals or between social groups. As such, they are part of human life. They occur in various forms in the family, among friends, on the street and at school, and between nations, countries, and races. They can also often develop into violence.
Wars are intense conflicts between social groups (classes, races, nations,
states, interstate communities, etc.) in which different groups fight to
achieve their goals with military weapons. Wars have been a part of human
history from the beginning.
Members of certain social groups worshipped their soldiers and their courage and wrote hymns about the military achievements of their community. But every war leaves its victims behind and deepens the gulf between the different social communities. To prevent wars and violence between nations, the most important thing is to establish a just order at the global level, meaning sharing goods and burdens fairly, thus enabling all people to live in dignity.
What are your first thoughts when you hear the word “war”? What
feelings does this word evoke in you?
Write spontaneously your first thoughts and feelings about war in the box below.
Underline in the textbox above those thoughts and feelings that you think are negative. Which thoughts and feelings are more negative or positive? Why does a certain attitude towards war prevail? Write a short comment in the textbox below.
4.3 The reality of war, just war, and pacifism
The results of archeological excavations show that prehistoric societies were quite violent. More than 10% of the deaths were due to murder. Wars have shaped the entire history of humanity.
4.3.1 Facts about war
In the 20th century, from 136 to 148 million people died as a result of wars. The First World War caused about 9 million deaths and more than 21 million serious injuries. There were many more victims of the Second World War: 15,600,000 soldiers and 39,200,000 civilians. In the concentration camp in Auschwitz, more than 1.1 million prisoners were murdered. On 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people. From 1945 to the end of the century, 41 million people died in hundreds of wars around the world.
The worldwide military budget is about $1.8 million per minute. Military
spending is one of the main causes of poverty in the world. In the 1990s,
more people died of starvation worldwide than were killed in both world
Today, conflicts within countries predominate (civil wars, terrorist attacks, ethnic persecution, and ethnic cleansing), although there are also wars between countries. In 2020, there are military conflicts in 69 countries worldwide, 15 of which are wars, 23 limited wars, and 196 violent conflicts.
Today, countries no longer have a monopoly on the use of weapons; they are easily accessible to different groups on the world market. Even the aims of modern wars are not entirely clear, as they are a mixture of different motives and causes: greed for property, power, ideological beliefs, ethnic and cultural conflicts, corruption, and similar. All this makes it difficult to end wars and create a lasting peace.
4.3.2 JUST WAR
The international community (United Nations) is committed to intervene in
countries where there is a clear violation of human rights. In such cases,
the UN Security Council has the task of authorizing military intervention
to prevent further human rights violations (for example, genocide, ethnic
cleansing, use of weapons of mass destruction). The main elements of
the theory of just war continue to serve as the basis for the use of military
means against acts of violence.
The theory of just war argues that under certain conditions it is moral to use military means to bring about justice. Throughout history, six basic principles of a just war have been formed:
a. Just cause: self-defense, defense of others, protection of human
rights (genocide, ethnic cleansing); not to acquire wealth or power;
b. Right intention: to promote good and avoid evil with the aim of restoring justice and peace; not to achieve other goals, such as economic interests or dominant geopolitical positions;
c. Last resort: when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed; d. Probability of success the probability of success must be real; it is not allowed to send soldiers on a mission for an unreachable goal;
e. Proportionality: The evil consequences of war must not be greater than the evil to be fought by the war;
f. Competent authority: The military action must be based on legitimate authority.
To be able to speak of a just war, therefore, all conditions must be met. Military means are sometimes necessary to protect life and human rights. The problem with the theory of just war is that it is often difficult to determine whether all conditions are met.
Think first of all about the reasons for the use of weapons today. What kind of war, if any, can be just? What do you think is a justified reason to use violence today? What conditions are justified for armed resistance?
The stories of the First Testament were originated centuries ago in the culture of the Middle East. At that time, society was not global but strongly concentrated in rural areas, local cities, and small villages. Electricity had not yet been invented, nor had the internet. Industry did not exist, the people supported themselves economically mainly through agriculture and fishing, handicrafts, and trade. Christianity did not exist either. In general, religious life in the Middle East was characterized by polytheism. The term ‘polytheist’ refers to someone who does not believe in one god, but in multiple gods. The term ‘polytheism’ therefore refers to a religion with several gods. All these elements had an impact on the Biblical stories.
4.3.3 Non-violent resistance
Many representatives of different religions and non-believers argue that
peace can only be achieved by non-violent means. Pacifism is a movement
that refuses to use weapons and violence to achieve its goals. In their view,
no war can be justified. In its radical form, pacifism also rejects any violent
defense against violence. It only permits non-violent defense.
An example of non-violent resistance was the struggle for Indian independence led by Mahatma Gandhi (1969–1948). He defended the attitude of ahimsa (non-injury), which means “the avoidance of harm to any living being in thought, word or deed”. Millions of supporters defied the British by not cooperating with laws that were considered unjust. Their non-violent way of fighting for justice has sparked movements for civil rights and freedoms around the world. However, Gandhi did not advocate absolute pacifism in the sense that the use of force is never justified. He defended the position that it is better to resist with physical violence than to be a coward when one’s family is threatened by armed robbers.
What do you think about pacifism? Is the use of force always wrong? Even in self-defense? How should people fight against injustice and violence? Should a country remain passive when it is (unjustly) attacked?
4.3.4 Ancient myth of Antigone
Establishing peace and reconciliation after a war is a long process. Every
war leaves many victims behind: those fallen in battle, the wounded, the
displaced, the relatives of the fallen, and others. It is very important to
respect all the victims in order to ensure the possibility of lasting peace.
In the animated film, the ancient Greek myth of the heroine Antigone was mentioned. Antigone was characterized by the courage to follow the voice of her conscience and bury her brother despite the king’s ban on doing so. Respect for all the dead is one of the fundamental elements of civilization. Every person, regardless of his life, has the right to be buried.
After the death of King Oedipus, ruler of Thebes, his sons Polyneices and Eteocles fight for the throne, killing each other in battle. Therefore, their uncle Creon takes power. After a lavish funeral service for Eteocles, he forbids the transfer of Polyneices’ body, condemns it to lie unburied, and declares him a traitor. Antigone, moved by the love for her brother and convinced of the injustice of the order, buried Polyneices secretly. She is convinced that every man deserves to be buried. For this, she was ordered to by executed by order of Creon; she hanged herself before the order could be carried out. Her lover, Haemon, son of Creon, committed suicide. The king’s wife, Eurydice, also committed suicide. In the end, Creon is left completely alone and crushed because he realizes that he has violated the basic laws of civilization.
In European culture, Antigone has become a symbol of respect for the
fundamental values of civilization, expressed in particular by her words: “I
was born to share love, not hate”.
Many other thoughts about war and peace have been formed throughout history. Read the thoughts below and choose the one that appeals to you the most or write down a sentence or your own.
o “In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.”
(Herodotus, 484–425 BC)
o “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929–1968)
o “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869–1948)
o “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” (Ernest Hemingway, 1899–1961)
4.4 Global Justice & Peace
Peace is not just being without war, but it represents a way of life that allows everyone in society to live a dignified human life and develop their potential. The unjust distribution of good and resources, exploitative attitudes and disrespect of dignity are constant sources of conflict and tension.
What do you think are the main steps we need to take to avoid our conflicts turning into wars? How could we ensure more just distribution of goods globally? Who is responsible for addressing the unjust situation in today’s world?
4.4.1 Towards a Global Ethic
We often hear that religions, which are alleged to encourage the use of
weapons to achieve their goals, are primarily to blame for wars and
violence. Almost all religions are accused of justifying violence when
it comes to asserting their interests. More thorough historical studies,
however, show that religions themselves were largely not the source of
wars, but politicians and military leaders abused religious sentiments in
promoting military action. Today, leaders of different religions are united in
the pursuit of world peace. Efforts are also being made to create a global
ethic, which should serve as a basis for peaceful coexistence between
different nations, religions, and cultures.
The initiator of the movement for the global ethic, Hans Küng, attempts to find the fundamental and connecting elements of all religions and non-religious people. The Global Ethic Project does not attempt to create new ethical values or norms but rather draws attention to values that all people, regardless of religion, worldview or nationality, already share in their traditions.
One of the common elements in all religions and cultures is the golden
• Confucius (551-479 BC), Chinese philosopher: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”
• Rabbi Hillel (110-10 BC), Jewish religious leader: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.
• Jesus Christ: “Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.” (Mt 7:12)
• Prophet Mohamed: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.”
• Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), German philosopher: “Do so that the maxim of your will could at any time be considered a principle of general law.”
4.4.2 Global Justice and Peace
In 2015, UN members adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals as
a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They
address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate
change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.
One of the goals is also peace, justice, and strong institutions. Sustainable development is only possible within communities that live based on just relations and mutual respect, which are the foundation of peaceful coexistence. This also requires efficient and trustworthy institutions at the local, national, and transnational levels.
The work for peace and justice begins with each individual. We must know how to resolve conflicts peacefully and that we are looking for just and sustainable solutions. Conflicts arise because different parties want the same thing, such as economic resources, money, power, recognition, or social status. We see others as obstacles to the implementation of our desires. If we deal with conflicts in a non-violent and constructive way, we become more creative and humane. Conflicts can also be an opportunity to clarify the views of individual parties and to deepen cooperation between different actors. Dutch philosopher Bart Brandsma defines peace as follows: “Peace is a long series of conflicts that we have dealt with successfully.” We will never be able to avoid conflicts completely, but we must know how to deal with them in a peaceful and civilized way.
Think for yourself next to the questions below and write short answers
in the box.
• What can I do personally and with my friends to strengthen justice and build a culture of peace?
• What are currently the biggest challenges in building peace at the local, national, and global levels?
4.5 Additional material: Artistic presentation of war
Throughout history, many monuments to the victors of wars have been
erected, magnificent paintings depicted, hymns written and powerful
musical works composed. Art is often used for propaganda purposes;
however, the artists also have the power to remind the people about the
atrocity of war and violence.
Two pictures below are from the same period of history and present both perspectives – from the side of military leaders and from the side of innocent victims.
Compare the two pictures with the following questions:
1. What do you see in the pictures?
a. Who is the central person? Who are the other people? What is the relationship between them?
b. What role do light and colour play in both images? What kind of atmosphere do they create?
c. Where are the scenes set?
2. How do you feel when you look at the picture? What emotions overwhelm you?
3. What is the main message of the pictures? What is the difference between them?
4. Write what titles you would give to the first and second pictures.
Conflict is a serious and lasting contrast in terms of values, beliefs, interests, and attitudes between individuals or between social groups.
Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislature.
Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial and/or religious groups from a given territory by a more powerful ethnic group, often with the intent of making it ethnically homogeneous.
Genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.
Global justice is a principle that requires just distribution of benefits and burdens throughout the world.
The Golden Rule
The Golden Rule is a principle that is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind for thousands of years. It requires: “What you wish done to yourself, do to others.”
Human rights are fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being and which are inherent in all human beings regardless of their age, ethnic origin, location, language, religion, ethnicity, or any other status. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. For sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. These elements are interconnected, and all are crucial for the well-being of individuals and societies.
The United Nations (UN)
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established in 1945 and has 193 member states.
War is an intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces.
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