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Religion, Peace and Justice.

Religion and Equality

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Christian Attitudes towards War

"WAR: a period of hostile relations between countries, states or factions that leads to fighting between armed forces, especially in land or sea battles."

There are three main Christian beliefs about war:

  • Holy War
  • Just War
  • No war
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Holy War

  •  The belief that sometimes it is neccessary to defend a religion using physical violence.
  • The Crusades were justified by this. Christain Europe believed that they should take the Holy Land from the Muslims who lived there.
  • The Isrealites fight under God's orders to protect the promised land. 

"Proclaim this among the nations: prepare for war." (Joel 3:9).

"The Lord is a man of war." (Exodus 15:3)

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Just War

Some believe that some wars are worth fighting, whilst others are not. Thomas Aquinas set out guidleines for when a war is Just.

  • JUS AD BELLUM: the conditions under which military force is justified. It must be started by a proper authority, for a good reason, to establish good and restore peace. There should be a reasonable chance of success, and it should be a last resort.
  • JUS IN BELLO: how to conduct a war in an ethical manner. It should only be fought against enemy soldiers, using proportional force, and causing limited unnecessary death.
  • JUS POST BELLUM: what should happen afterward. It shoud only end if the wrong has been righted, or it cannot be won. There should be no revenge, and only those responsible should be punished. Peace terms should be proportional, and accepted by legitimate authorities.
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No War

Many people feel that violence and war should not be used to solve conflicts. They are known as pacifists, and beleive that war cannot be justified, regardless of purpose or outcome.

  • Jesus stressed that peace is what Christians should strive to achieve.
  • Many pacifists will become conscientious objectors, in times of war  and refuse to fight on the front lines.
  • They can work as support services, such as ambulance drivers.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God" (Matthew 5:9)

"Put your sword away, for he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword." (Luke 26:51)

"Love your enemy, and pray for those that persecute you." (Mathew 5:44)


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Different Christian Beliefs: War

ROMAN CATHOLIC: Christians have a duty to aim for peace; peace has to be built on justice, truth, love and freedom. War is a regretful action.

ANGLICAN: War is a last resort, but can be neccessary. They ask for guidance through prayer.

QUAKERS: Often pacifists. They cannot recocniles the lessons of Jesus with war. Mostly conscientious objectors, performed valuable services in various wars. 

MENNONITES: Have similair beliefs to Quakers.

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Christian attitudes towards Violence

"Violence: a destructive force used to achieve goals."

  • Some might draw a distinction between violence and force. force might be used to stop a violent behaviour, for example when a police officer restrains someone.
  • Violence could be justified in order to maintain order, which God sees as good.
  • Other claim that the abuse of a human being directly contradicts the idea of the sanctity of life.
  • Jesus was capable of anger, despite teaching forgiveness and peace.

"Surely you know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit lives in you! So If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him."  (Corinthians 3:16-17)

"To those who sold doves he said, "Get those out of here! How dare you turn my father's house into a market?" (John 2:16)

"Put your sword back in its place. All who take the sword will die by the sword." (Mathew 26:47)

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Christian attitudes towards Pacifism

  • Pacifism is the belief that peace should be the central value people pursue, and usually involves the belief that to use violence to defend yourself or in war is not right.
  • Some Christians make a distinction between pacifism and nuclear pacifism.
  • Nuclear pacifism is the belief that the use of nuclear weapons can never be justified, as there would always be more suffering caused by the use of the weapon than could be prevented. They do not neccesarily rule out other forms of violence.

MARTIN LUTHER KING; practised non-violent protest, resisting the evil of racism in America through sit-ins, marches and boycotts. He accepted violence without retaliating or replying. This prevented what could have been civil war.

"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39).

"The lion will lie down with the lamb" (Isiah 11:6).

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What is Justice?

Justice: fair behaviour or treatment.

  • For Christians, the idea of justice comes from a belief that all are created in the image of God and have an inherent dignity.
  • Some Christians believe that they have to make sure all people are cared for and protected.
  • Therefore, if a crime is commited, the government should punish the criminal in a way that is suited to purpose.
  • Many Christians work within prisons to help criminals, and they also pray for them.
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What are the aims of punishment?

The punishment of criminals can be said to have specific aims. They could depend on the crime or the person being punished.

  • Retribution: a way of making sure that people, particulary victims, are able to see that the criminal has paid the appropriate price for their crime.
  • Reformation: it should give the criminal a chance to reflect on what they have done wrong and to then change into a better person.
  • Protection: to protect society and innocent people from others.
  • Deterrance: either for them or for others.
  • Vinidcation: crime must be punished so that the law is respected.

ARCHBISHOP DEMOND TUTU promotes using resorative justice. He wants to restore the relationships between the victim and perpetrator. He does not believe you should give up on anyone.

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Christian beliefs on the treatment of Criminals

  • Christians believe that in order for society to be just, criminals must receive some punishment, but it is appropriate that they are treated justly and fairly.
  • The rehabilitation of criminals is important to Christians; many Christian charities try to help with this, for example Daylight, which tries to stop re-offending.
  • Other Christians visit people in jail or pray for those they know in jail.
  • Some Christians believe criminals are not treated fairly and will campaign for change.
  • Some believe Jesus advocated for a true peace where people were not judged by those who were just as bad as them.

ELIZABETH FRY: an 18th century Quaker who fought for the rights of prisoners, getting them better rights.

"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

"I was in prison and you visited me." (Matthew 25:36)

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7)

"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

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Christian attitudes towards Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment: the state sanctioned killing or execution of a person.

  • Some believe that it is the only way to deal with serious crimes such as murder.
  • It can be seen as a way of protecting the community.
  • It is proper justice for the victim and their family.
  • It is cheaper to put them to death than to give them a life sentence.
  • Others say it gives no chance for forgiveness and repentance.
  • The person could be innocent- there is no going back.
  • Two wrongs do not make a right.  It goes against the sanctity of life for both people.

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." (Leviticus 24:20)

"Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword." (Matthew 26:47)

"You should forgive seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21)

"You shalt not kill." (Exodus 23:13)

"Do not let evil defeat you; instead conquer evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

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Different Christian Beliefs: Capital Punishment

ROMAN CATHOLIC: The use of the death penalty can be justified, but only in extreme circumstances. Pope John Paul II said  "such cases are rare, if not practically nonexistant."

CofE:  The church said that they "would deplore the reintroduction of the death penalty."

QUAKERS: Oppose the death penalty.

MOST CHRISTIANS: Do not believe that the death penalty can be reconciled with Jesus' teaching about forgiveness and love, and their belief in the sanctity of life.

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Christian attitudes towards Social Injustice

Social injustice: when some individuals or groups are are denied the rights and benefits of the majority of others because of poverty or discrimination.

  • Many Christians take positive action against social injustice, for example working with groups like Amnesty International or  Anti-Slavery International.
  • Christians believe that God created all people, and as such they should be treated fairly.
  • Great reform in Britain, such as the abolition of slavery, the introduction of the NHS and free education are all linked back to the work of Christians.
  • MARTIN LUTHER KING: fought for the rights of black Americans.
  • MOTHER THERESA: helped the poor on Calcutta.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him." (Genesis 1:27).

"If you satisfy the needs of the opressed, your light will rise in the darkness." (Isiah 58:10)

"Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his opressor one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire." (Jeremiah 21:12b)

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Liberation Theology

  • Liberation theology is a recent development in Christianity and is concerned with the issue of equality.
  • It says that the followers of Jesus have an obligation to take positive action to oppose social injustice and governmental abuse of power.
  • It has supporters in both Protestant and Catholic Churches. Their work is primarily seen in Latin America and some parts of Asia and Africa.
  • If the law of a country acts against the people then it must be opposed, and broken.
  • In Latin America, it was felt that the people were being forced into poverty by exploitation from the government. They believd this challenged Christian beliefs about the teatment of the poor and that they should take direct action against the government.
  • ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMERO: one of the most famous priests of this movement. He worked in San Salvador and was assasinated as he said mass.
  • Catholic leaders in Rome, including the Pope, have criticised Liberation Teology as going too far. They do not approve of the methods that are used and believe that there are other ways of working with the poor that do not contravene teachings on peace.
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What is Equality?

Equality: fairness in which people are treated the same no matter what their characteristics might be.

Prejudice: "judging before"- when we come to conclusions before we know the facts.

Discrimination: when people allow their prejudice to influence their actions.

  • Christians believe all people are valuable to God. He does not have favourites.
  • God also loves all peple unconditionally. It is important for them to emulate this behaviour.
  • They should not look for differences, but recognise their connection through the Christian Church.

"If you show favouritism, you sin." (James 2:1).

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ."  (Galatians 3:28).


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Christian responses to Racism

Racism: the belief that some people are inferior because of the colour of their skin or ethnic origin.

  • Christianity was at first dominated by white, western people, but today it is more diverse.
  • According to Christainity, racism can never be right, all people are created equal.
  • Jesus taught that everyone is your neighbour, and therefore you must love all people. He illustrated this in the story of the good Samaritan.
  • Christianity has not always taken a firm stance on racism, and some Christians supported slavery. The Dutch Reformed Church fought in favour of apartheid in South Africa.
  • This was based on their belief that God had commanded Cannaan, Noah's black son, to be a slave to his brothers. this was also used as a justification for slavery in the US.
  • MARTIN LUTHER KING: fought segregation in the US.
  • TREVOR HUDDLESTON and DESMOND TUTU: campaigned to break down the system of apartheid.
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Christian responses to Sexism

Sexism: the belief that one gender is inferior to another.

  • The Bible is not consistent on it's teachings on gender. When the Old Testament was written, society was patriarchal. Women were thought of as property. However, some women are treated well and respected in the Old Testament such as Judith the prophet.
  • Some say that the sexes are different but equal. They should therefore perfom roles according to the limiting and wildly innacurate gender binary identity assigned to them.
  • RC believe that women cannot be priests, and may point to the fact that no women were selected to be Jesus' disciples. The CofE allows women to become priests.
  • The Salavtion Army has always allowed women to take leadership roles, and says that roles should be given in accordance with the person's talents, not gender.

"Deborah, a prophetess, was leading Isreal at that time." (Judges 4:4).

"Women should remain silent in the churches" (Acts of the Apostles 14:34)

"They ought to be permitted to play their part according to their own nature" (Vatican II)

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Christian attitudes towards Forgiveness and Reconc

  • Christianity teaches that people should not hold grudges, but forget past misdeeds.
  • They might say that we should be forgivig if we expect to be forgiven.
  • The Od testament is differnt, and beleieves a balance has to be restored.
  • Jesus wanted to replace this attitude with one of forgiveness.
  • Christians can go to their priest or minjster to seek help. In the RC church, this is called the Sacrament of Recocnciliation. they do this because they beleive Jesus handed down the power to forgive people fo their sins to priests.
  • GORDON WILSON: forgave those repsonisble for the death of his daughter in a bombing in Northern Ireland.

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (Exodus 21:23)

"If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 19:23)

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." (Matthew 6) 

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Christian responses to Other Religions

  • Many Christians believe that the only way to achieve salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ and follow his teachings.
  • Exlcusivists believe they have the exclusive truth about God.
  • Inclusivists believe that all religions have elements of truth, but true salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
  • Pluralists believe that all religions are equally valid.
  • Christians can respond to othe religions thorugh missionary work, evangelism and ecumenism.

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

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What is a Missionary?

Missionary work: the act of fufilling the teaching of Jesus by following in his footsteps.

  • Christians used to travel to other countries whith aim of converting the locals.
  • There are still missionaires today, and though they feel they should spread the Good News, they focus on helpeing people in developing countries.
  • Christianity still believes it has a duty to convert people.
  • BROTHER PAUL MCCAULEY: helps the indigenous tribes of Peru fight for their rights against the governemt that wishes to exploit the rainforest.

"The church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelise all men" (Catechism of the RC Church, Section 848).

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What is Evangelism?

Evangelism: the spreading of the teachings of the gospels or 'Good News'.

  • The Salvation Army is an example of a Christian group who try to spread Jesus' teachngs as well as carrying out thier work with the disadvantaged.
  • The Mission for Seafarers (part of the Anglican Church) is another organisation which helps to help and support sailors of whatever faith as well as teaching about Christianity.
  • Some Christians believe that God would not punish someoen who was a devoted follower of another religion where Christianity was not brought to them.
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What is Ecumenism?

Ecumenism: the belief that all religions and denominations should work toghether for the good of mankind.

  • Sometimes, RC and Protestant have disagreement about the authority of the Pope, or wheteher women should be allowed to be priests.
  • However, amny Christians work toghether with joint services and community work because they say although there are differences they still share the same essential beliefs.
  • TAIZE: a small Christian communtiy  founded by a monk, which at first aimed to help refugees, particularly Jews from Germany, and now works to improve relations between Catholics and Protestants.
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