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RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Issues: Conflict

What is are the key Christian responses to conflict?

 

The world around us engages in acts of conflict and aggression all the time. In these situations, we can find ourselves asking: is it ever OK to fight? If so, what makes fighting apparently the best option? Or are there alternatives to warfare when conflict reaches a global scale?

What do Christians believe?

In short, Christians believe different things. However, there is an important starting point for any discussion on the ethics of war and conflict that all Christians agree on: God loves justice.

God wants all people to be treated fairly and live full, happy lives. Throughout the Bible, he asks his followers to free people from injustice and oppression of any kind, from being cheated to being wrongly imprisoned, to being left in poverty. Jesus himself told people that his mission was to bring freedom. As he began his ministry, he read some words from the Old Testament which would sum up his business on earth:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” (Luke 4:18)

As followers of Christ, Christians are expected to stand up for justice and follow Jesus’ example of bringing life to others, in its broadest sense. The debate revolves around the best way of achieving this.

FOR: JUST WAR

There are two major positions Christians take. The first is that war is acceptable, providing certain criteria have been met. These Christians support the notion of a just war. They would agree that war should be avoided at all costs as it is not God’s ideal. However, they would be willing to accept that war could be considered if all other strategies have been tried and failed, or if the cost (in human terms) of delaying military intervention would create a greater injustice than going to war.

Christian theories about ‘just war’ began with St Augustine who laid down terms for engagement. According to him, a just war is initiated for the cause of good and fought in a way that is right: causing the least harm to innocent civilians and making a proportionate response to the injury received.

AGAINST: PACIFICSM

On the other hand, there are some Christians who believe that, as violence is expressly forbidden by Jesus, war is never right or justified. Active pacifism holds that we should try every other strategy, withdrawing aid or trade, diplomatic negotiations, and never consider war as a possibility. Such principles have strongly influenced foreign policy and international relations.

Reflect What do you think? Is it OK to fight? Which of these responses fit your ideas best, and why?
  • Never ever.
  • Maybe, in certain circumstances.
  • I would fight somebody who had something I wanted.
  • Yes, definitely, but only if somebody was hurting me first.
  • Yes, if I saw my friends in trouble, I would stand up for them.