Religion and Life Studies - War and Peace

AQA Specification B - Religion and Life Issues - Topic 5- Religion, War and Peace.



War - armed conflict between 2 or more groups or nations. It involves the use of armies and weapons in a battle to achieve a goal, such as leadership of a country.

Peace - the opposite of a war. It is where people live in harmony with each other, and are not trying to hurt each other. 

Pacifists - They do not believe in fighting a war in any circumstances.

Justice - fairness. It is where all people have equal rights and freedoms and there are protected by laws made by legitimate governments. If someone goes against these rights and freedoms, they are punished by the law and these things are made right again. A war may be fought to gain justice.

Sanctity of Life - it is the idea that all life is valuable and special. It recognises that every human being has a right to life because we are all unique. Religious people believe that God creates all people and this makes human life sacred. A religious believer might refuse to fight because all life is sacred, or they might choose to fight to protect the life of others. 

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War Categories

Wars between nations - these are conflicts between rival countries or nations. Examples : Israel vs. Palestinians, India vs. Pakistan, USA vs Iraq.

Civil Wars - these are conflicts between rival groups within a country. For example : Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan.

The War Against Terrorism - After 11/09/01, the USA + Allies have declared war on extreme Islamic fundamentalists, resulting in the war in Afghanistan.

Reasons for War :

- Territory (to take back or gain new land) - In self defence - to defend a way of life - to change the leadership of a country - as an allied force keeping an agreement.

Reasons Against War :

- Life is sacred and should not be taken. - wars are too expensive to fight - wars lead to too much destruction. - many innocent lives are lost - not limited to a battlefield. 

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Religious Attitudes (1)

Christianity :

Jesus taugh a message of love and Christianity has a strong pacifist tradition. But they do accept, there are circumstances where it is necessary to use armed conflict and fight in 'just war'. Do not support nuclear weapons. War must be a last resort if all peace attempts have failed.

Quotes : 'Blessed are the peacemakers' (Jesus - Sermon on the Mount)

' Put away your sword, those who live by the sword, die by the sword' (Jesus) 

Islam :

Another meaning of Islam is peace. War should only occur when all peace attempts have failed. Then, they have a duty to fight in the defence of Allah and the weak and oppressed. 

Quotes : 'hate your enemy mildly, for he may become your friend one day' (Hadith) ' those who die in the name of Allah, will be rewarded with paradise' Q.

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Religious Attitudes (2)

Sikhism :

They have a duty to fight for justice and to protect minorities. War should be a last resort, and should be fought in a just manner. 

Quotes : ' The Lord is the haven of peace' = Adi Granth

' When all other methods have failed, it is permissible to draw the sword' = Guru Gobind Singh

Several Gurus have instructed Sikhs to do physical and military training. They do not look for wars to fight. Peace through justice is ideal. But there is no obligation to fight or get justice where necessary. Some are pacifists out of respect for the sanctity of life. 

Geneva Conventions

There are rules about fighting wars. Most countries have signed an agreement, so they are supposed to follow these rules, if not, they are committing war crimes. 

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Holy War and Just War (1)

Holy War - believing it is a right to fight a war in the name of God.

Just War - believing it is a right to fight a war in the interest of justice and the greater good. 


Holy War - in old testament, there are many examples of war fought for God. The Crusades (1095-1291) were fought for the holy land. 

Just War - Message : sometimes if you don't fight, you allow a greater evil to happen than a war would have caused, so you have to fight. 

Christian Just War Rules :

1) War must be started and controlled by a proper authority. 2) There must be a just cause for the war. 3) the war must have a clear aim to promote good and overcome evil. 4) war must be a last resort. 5) it must be winnable, no point losing lives otherwise. 6) must be conducted fairly. 7) good outcome and restored peace.

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Holy War and Just War (2)

Islam :

A holy war is a just war. There are rules for how muslims should fight in the Qur'aan and these were written more clearly by a caliph. A jihad may only be fought as a last resort and never against another Muslim nation. 

Who fights? - Muslims have a duty to join the army and fight, if a just leader begins a war. - Not all men have to fight, Muhammed (S.A.W.) (P.B.U.H.) said that one man from 2 should fight so there are people to look after towns and villages. - Soldiers on the battlefield must fight, running away makes it harder for army men. - If a town is attacked, everyone, MW&C has to fight back. 

How is the war fought? - It may only begin when the enemy attacks. - Civilians may not be harmed, attacked, or mistreated. - Crops and holy buildings should be left alone. - Prisoners of war should be treated well. Zakat money can be used to pay for their food. 

How does the war end? - when people regain their rights. - when the enemy calls for peace.

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Holy War and Just War (3)

Sikhism :

  • When Guru Gobind Singh made the Khalsa, it was his intention to create an army of warrior saints committed to fighting for justice. 
  • He outlines the teachings of a Just War. This is called dharam yudh which means in defence of justice. 
  • The soldiers were called sant sipahi meaning saint soldiers. As well as training they had an obligation to meditate daily, basically, they had to practice the religion devotedly as well as their military training and preparations. 
  • Guru Gobind Singh : Without power, righteousness does not flourish, without dharma everything is crushed and ruined.
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War in the modern world

Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • They can kill large numbers of people. They can cause massive destruction to natural and man-made landscapes and cities. 
  • It is impossible to target only military operations as they are controlled from far away, either in the form of missiles or bombs dropped from planes. 
  • Whoever does it, does not have to see the destruction caused. They are very different to soldiers on the battlefield.
  • Several types of WMD :
  • 1) Nuclear weapons - also known as atomic bombs, cause immediate destruction to all life and structures within their range. The radioactive fallout can have long term effects. 
  • 2) Biological Warfare - also known as germ warfare, uses living, disease-causing bacterium or viruses such as anthrax to cause serious illness/death.
  • 3) Chemical Warfare - uses non living toxins, such as nerve agents and mustard gas, to cause death, incapacity or illness.
  • 4) Radiological Weapons - weapons that use conventional explosives to create bombs that disperse radioactive material. 
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Nuclear War

  • 6th August 1945 - Japanese City of Hiroshima was devastated as the Americans used the first atomic bomb in warfare. Over 140,000 people died instantly. 3 days after, Nagasaki was bombed. Many of the people since have died or faced illness due to the radioactive elements exposed.
  • Nuclear Proliferation - increase in development and possession of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Disarmament

  • Universally recognised for world peace to be possible. This could be achieved by unilateral disarmament - where one country gives up in the hope others will. 
  • No country has, although, some have adopted a non - nuclear stance and refused to join in the arms race. Example : Japan.
  • Multilateral Disarmament - requires all nuclear powers to give up their weapons at the same time. 
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Against/For nuclear deterrent

Against :

  • Nuclear proliferation makes their use more likely. 
  • Use could never be morally justified. 
  • Cost billions which could be spent on bettering people.
  • Other countries are encouraged to develop a nuclear capability.

For :

  • Discourage other countries from threatening attacks.
  • No nuclear weapons have been used since 1945.
  • Arms agreements can only be reached if the world powers have equal capabilities. 
  • The use of other WMD is less likely. 
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  • Act of violence intended to create fear. A terrorist is anyone who plans to carry out such an act. 
  • Terrorist acts are usually carried out on civilian and therefore many people consider them to be unlawful acts of violence. 
  • The UNSC regards terrorist acts as criminal. "Acts intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing an act. 

Terrorism examples :

  • Al Qaeda's attacks on the twin towers (11/9/01) and the london underground (7/7/05) (suicide bombing)
  • Madrid train bombings by the ETA in 2004.
  • When people are fighting for a cause they believe in, they will go to any cause to make sure it is hard. 
  • 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'.
  • Suicide bombers are an example of the extremes some will go to. 
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Victims of War

  • Most wars are fought between the less developed countries of Africa and Asia. Often these conflicts are civil wars within a country.
  • With the absence of a proper government, proper soldiers, civilians in war torn countries have had their lives shattered. 
  • There are over 12 million refugees. These are people who have been forced to flee their homes because of fear of massacre, genocide and other violence. Many are forced to seek safety in a refugee camp hundreds of miles away, often in neighbouring countries.
  • Having lost their homes, livelihoods, refugees often have to deal with basic food, shelter, health care.
  • Poor living conditions leads to illnesses such as cholera, dysentery.
  • Many arrive having already been tortured and maimed.
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Red Cross and Red Crescent

  • Started in 1859 by Henry Dunant as he was so horrified by what he saw in the battle of Solferino. 
  • He helped care for both sides which lead to the organisation known as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. 
  • Grown into the largest humanitarian aid agency in the world, present in almost every country. 
  • Aims : relieve pain and suffering from all people affected by conflict. 
  • They provide a full range of support to those in need - short term and long term aid. 
  • They set up hospitals, establishing refugee camps, providing food, shelter and protection.
  • Found principles :
  • Humanity - prevent all from human suffering and ensure respect. 
  • Impartiality - no discrimination against race, religion, sex, class. Neutrality - not to take sides so retain confidence in all. Independence - movement is always independent. Voluntary - not prompted by gain. Unity - only one society in each country. - Universality - equal status of all societies. 
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Working for Peace


  • state of harmony where justice exists for all and freedoms are respected.
  • All religions teach the importance of peace on earth and encourage followers to live peacefully.
  • Pacifists believe that all violence is morally wrong. They will not participate in any war, regardless of reasons.
  • Conscientious objectors = people who refuse to participate directly in fighting war on the grounds of conscience. They will assist in non military work such as relief work or medics/mediators.


  • "Treat others as you would like them to treat you" (Jesus)
  • "As you value yourself, so value others - cause suffering to no one" (GGS)
  • "I will act towards others exactly as i would myself" (Udana Varqa) Buddhist.
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Organisations/People working for Peace (1)

Quakers = Peaceful Christian group, maintain completely pacifist. They denounce violence of any form. Believe all relationships should be loving, they meditate during wars for peace. They work with refugees and help as medics.

Gandhi = 30+ years, he used a policy of non violence to oppose the Brits. Hindu concept of ahimsa (non violence) he believed in. Marches, speeches, sit-ins. 

Dalai Lama = Spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. He was forced into exile after the Chinese invaded. Says hatred and violence leads to more of this. Peace only exists when everyone respects each other. Received the 1992 Peace Prize. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer = Christian living in Nazi Germany. He helped jews escape death camps and worked to overthrow the party. Even though he opposed all killing, he was part of a group who planned to kill Hitler as he believed it would help the greater good. He was arrested and executed for treason. 

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United Nations

  • After the devastation of the 2nd WW, the countries of the world came together on the 24th October 1945 to officially form the organisation now called the UN. 
  • It is remembered around the world as UN day. 
  • Main Aim : promote world peace. It strives to give all nations a voice in world affairs and to encourage global thinking in the determination of national policies. 

Principles :

  • Maintain international peace and security.
  • Develop friendly relations between nations.
  • To co-operate in sorting out international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems. 
  • Promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • To be a centre for helping humans achieve these aims.
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Day of Peace and UNSC

International day of peace : since 1981, 21st september has been marked out as the international day of peace. On this day, the UN asks the world to observe this day with a 24 hour cessation in all hostilities and a minute's silence at noon. At the HQ in NYC, the peace bell is rung to mark the day.

United Nations Security Council

  • This part of the UN is responsible for maintaining international peace and security. In the UN Charter, it states the council should :
  • 1) Establish peacekeeping operations like protecting human rights. 
  • 2) Establish international sanctions and regimes to prevent trade with nations who the UN have identified as abusing human rights.
  • 3) Authorise the use of military action to protect civilians in war torn nations.
  • This is all achieved through UNSC Resolutions. In 2007, 100,000 blue berets were sent to build and keep peace in 19 operations globally. 

What do the peacekeepers do? Monitor agreements, maintain ceasfires, help make stable govts. , monitor human rights, conduct disarmament. 

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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

  • In 1949, 26 countries in North America and Europe signed the North Atlantic Treaty to make NATO. 
  • The allies are committed to supporting each other to protect their freedom and security using political and military means. 
  • So, if Britain were to be threatened by another countries, allies would protect us. 
  • NATO countries work together to promote democracy, individual liberty, rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. 
  • NATO helps to end conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo as well as keeping peace around the world. 
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