Just Peace Theory
'WE CAN JOYFULLY anticipate an abundance of cultural differences and varied life experiences among the participants in the Rome Conference,” wrote Pope Francis in his welcome letter to the Nonviolence and Just Peace gathering in Rome, “and these will only enhance the exchanges and contribute to the renewal of the active witness of nonviolence as a ‘weapon’ to achieve peace.”
Nowhere were the “cultural differences” and “varied life experiences” more conspicuous than in the conversation about whether there is ever a Christian justification for armed force.
U.S. and Western European academics are thoroughly trained in the theory, theology, and application of just war theory. It’s taught in U.S. and European seminaries. It’s taught in all military academies. It provides a framework for international law.
In stark contrast, Catholics living in Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Syria, Congo, Sri Lanka, and other war-torn countries are not schooled in just war philosophy. It is not part of training for priests or academics or those in political life. When people from war-ravaged regions talk about “just war,” they speak from the experience of having been on the receiving end of “morally acceptable” drone strikes. They make a powerful argument for a paradigm shift away from just war thinking.
In regions of civil unrest, some said, where religious extremism is used as propaganda to advance partisan military and political objectives, even associating the language of “just war” with Catholicism can categorize Catholics as “combatants.”
In the case of Colombia’s brutal, 52-year-long civil war, Jesuit priest Francisco De Roux described how just war teaching misled Catholics into taking up arms. “In my Catholic country,” said De Roux, “our nuns and priests join the guerillas because of the just war paradigm. The Catholic paramilitaries pray to the Virgin before slaughtering people because of the just war paradigm.”
1. Continue developing Catholic social teaching on nonviolence. In particular, we call on Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and just peace.
2. Integrate gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life, including the sacramental life, and work of the church through dioceses, parishes, agencies, schools, universities, seminaries, religious orders, voluntary associations, and others.
3. Promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies).
4. Initiate a global conversation on nonviolence within the church, with people of other faiths, and with the larger world to respond to the monumental crises of our time with the vision and strategies of nonviolence and just peace.
5. No longer use or teach “just war theory”; continue advocating for the abolition of war and nuclear weapons.
6. Lift up the prophetic voice of the church to challenge unjust world powers and to support and defend those nonviolent activists whose work for peace and justice puts their lives at risk.
The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is a consortium of attendees from the Rome conference and others who are advocating for a papal encyclical on nonviolence. Read the full statement at nonviolencejustpeace.net.
In April 2016, Roman Catholics from around the world gathered at the Vatican to discuss how the church might embrace the principles of nonviolence and just peace more deeply (see "Game Changer?" in the December 2016 issue of Sojourners.)
And what does "just peace" include? Here are seven key principles:
Just cause: protecting, defending, and restoring the fundamental dignity of all human life and the common good
Right intention: aiming to create a positive peace
Participatory process: respecting human dignity by including societal stakeholders—state and nonstate actors as well as previous parties to the conflict
Right relationship: creating or restoring just social relationships both vertically and horizontally; strategic systemic change requires that horizontal and vertical relationships move in tandem on an equal basis
Reconciliation: a concept of justice that envisions a holistic healing of the wounds of war
Restoration: repair of the material, psychological, and spiritual human infrastructure
Sustainability: developing structures that can help peace endure over time
Adapted from “What Kind of Peace Do We Seek?” by Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at the Catholic University of America, in Peacebuilding (Orbis Books, 2010).
WHEN YOU live as a Christian in an Islamic country, there is no room for fear, no room for anger. You have to be patient. You have to be intelligent enough to live peacefully and nonviolently.
Once I was sitting all alone in the Catholic Church compound in Toba Tek Singh, a city in the Pakistani province of Punjab. The electricity had gone off, as outages are common in Pakistan. I was sitting below a huge tree. The compound gate was open. Suddenly, I saw a delegation coming down the road, led by the Islamic clerics—a huge group of them. I stood up to welcome them. I invited them to come into the courtyard. Unfortunately, they refused. They were very aggressive.
“Close your school immediately,” they told me. “You have co-education. You are giving wrong values. We are going to bomb it.”
In the group, there was one Muslim boy. “But Maulana Sahib,” he said, “the daughter of the local Maulana comes here for physiotherapy and they (the Christians) give it free of cost.” The Maulana (Muslim cleric) didn’t know what to say. He just walked away.
The immediate threat was over—but just by chance. I went into the church and looked at the crucifix: “Thank you, Jesus, for protecting us.”
I reflected on the incident. Here I was trying to get children to school. Now there was a threat to bomb the school. If I tell the parents that a delegation has given this threat, then the parents will not send their children to school. If I keep it a secret from parents, then what will I do if the school is attacked? I said a short prayer. I put my trust in Jesus’ suffering rather than in fear of the attackers. But these choices must be made daily.
We have to have strong faith when we work in challenging areas. We have to believe in Jesus. We have to believe in the cross. Those values alone will stand us in good stead.
We must have a spirituality that says no to war, no to militarization, no to weapons. All this talk of fighting the other has to end. Unless we go down the peaceful path, there will be no end to this killing, bomb blasts, death. Instead, let us teach and promote a culture of peace.
“JUST WAR IS KILLING US! There is no just war.”
That proclamation by a Catholic sister from Iraq, and others like it, resounded at a Vatican gathering this spring and fell on surprisingly receptive ears.
Sister Nazik Matty, an Iraqi Dominican, joined others from around the world in Rome in April to wrestle with how the Catholic Church could “recommit to the centrality of gospel nonviolence.” She has watched members of her religious community die for lack of medical care during war.
“Which of the wars we have been in is a just war?” asked Sister Matty, who was driven from her home in Mosul by ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh. “In my country, there was no just war. War is the mother of ignorance, isolation, and poverty. Please tell the world there is no such thing as a just war. I say this as a daughter of war.”
The Rome gathering on Nonviolence and Just Peace was unprecedented, bringing together members of the church hierarchy with social scientists, theologians, practitioners of nonviolence, diplomats, and unarmed civilian peacekeepers to discuss Catholic nonviolence and whether in the contemporary world armed force can ever be justified.
Of course, with such diverse participants, there was not a common mind on whether just war theory, a doctrine of military ethics used by Catholic theologians, has outlived its usefulness as church teaching.
Some of the academics and diplomats—particularly from the United States and Western Europe—maintained that just war criteria, when properly applied, are useful when working within halls of power, from the Pentagon to the United Nations, for restraining excessive use of military force by a state. One participant cautioned against “broad condemnations of just war tradition, if it means closing off dialogue with our allies.” Another questioned how diplomacy could continue without the just war framework as its common language.
But Catholics who came to Rome from conflict zones—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Colombia, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Uganda—brought a different perspective.
In his remarks at the National Defense University two weeks ago, President Obama stopped just one sentence short of declaring an end to the so-called “war on terror.” This is and always was a misnomer. It is a category error. A “war on terror” cannot be fought with armies and weapons of warfare. Terror is a response. Terrorism is a tactic. A terrorist is a criminal who ought to be apprehended, tried, and if convicted punished through the criminal justice system.
The Obama administration has been careful about using this term, speaking more about a war against al-Qaeda than an overall war on terror that is nothing but a declaration of perpetual war. President Obama said: “Our systemic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
He did not go so far as to declare the war on terror over.
Just peace theory begins with the idea that peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building is a day-by-blessed-day proposition. Unlike just war theory, it does not begin when violent conflict is imminent. There are 10 just peacemaking practices that have a record of success. A just peace foreign policy employs these practices for the purposes of both national security and of international peace.
The 10 just peacemaking practices are: support nonviolent direct action; take independent initiatives to reduce threat; use cooperative conflict resolution; acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice, and seek repentance and forgiveness; advance democracy, human rights, and interdependence; foster just and sustainable economic development; work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system; strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights; reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade; encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary association. (Just Peacemaking: the new paradigm for the ethics of peace and war Glen H. Stassen editor)
Cooperation, interdependence, human rights, and democracy are important elements of just peacemaking practices. I say this is a power-with, not a power-over model of foreign policy. This is not a model of weakness, but one of strength. The strength comes from building relationships and partnerships with other nations on the basis of mutual respect.
John Hope Franklin lived through most of the twentieth century. He was a gentle man, a scholar, an activist, and a truth-teller. He studied history and he helped to make it.
Just War Theory is a mode of analysis that lists criteria by which war may be considered righteous before, during and after its execution. The criteria to consider before a war are: declared by legitimate authority, just cause, right intent, reasonable hope of success, last resort, and announcement. The criteria to consider during war are: non combatant immunity, proportionality of damage to good that will result, limitations on weapons and tactics. Young scholars in [...]