Religion, Peace and Justice

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  • Created by: Catriona
  • Created on: 08-05-13 18:04

Just War Theory

Key terms:

  • Aquinas
  • Jus Ad Bellum
  • Jus In Bello
  • Jus Post Bellum

*Just war theory is simply the rules that religious people could use to decide when it is right to go to war. A Christian can say that the war was 'JUST' if it fits into the criteria that St. Thomas Aquinas set out. There are three sets of rules for the Just War Theory. For BEFORE a war begins, AFTER a war has started and AFTER a war has ended.

Jus Ad Bellum (rules for starting a war/going to war)

  • The government says to go to war - started by proper authority
  • The reasons for going to war are just (very god reasons)
  • If the aim or end result will correct the evil that is happening
  • If all peaceful ways have been tried - a last resort
  • Only the right amout of force can be used
  • There must be a reasonable chance of success
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Just War Theory (2)

Jus In Bello (conduct during war)

  • War should only be fought against enemy soldiers - no civillians must be injured or killed
  • The force used must be proportional to the wrong which has been done to cause the war
  • Minimum force should be used to limit unnecessary death and destruction

Jus Post Bellum (rules after the war)

  • There is just cause to end the war (the wrong has been righted or the enemy is ready to negotiate, or is clear that the war cannot be won by either side)
  • There must be no revenge taken
  • Peace terms must be made and accepted by the legitimate authority
  • The victor must ensure that the punishment is limited to the people directly responsible for the conflict
  • Any terms of surrender must ve proportional to the original reason for war
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Holy War

Key terms:

  • Jihad
  • Terrorism
  • God
  • Crusades

Christians sometimes believe that a war is right if it is to defend your religion, they believe it is right to fight if it is for your religion

Between 11-1271 there were 9 crusades. Wars that aimed to defend Christianity against the spread of Islam and from Muslims governing the Holy Land (Israel). These battles were often a disaster, many people did not even make it to the Middle East to fight, and there were Knights who came back with valuables, making people wonder if the war had been about religion or just an excuse for looting. Not all crusades were against Islam, the one in 1209-1229 was fought between catholics and a smaller group of Christians that the Catholic Church thought did not hold traditional Christian beliefs.

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War, right or wrong?

War is wrong because:

  • The Old Testament teaches that the prophet Micah said one day all the world would be at peace and all weapons would be made into farming tools 'nor will they train for war anymore' (Micah 4:3)
  • The 6th Commandment says 'do not murder'
  • Jesus was a pacifist - he would not follow Satan and he rode into Jeerusalem on a donkey
  • The message of Christmas is 'peace and goodwill to all men'
  • When he was about to be arressted in the Garden of Gethsemane and violence was being used, Jesus taught 'those who live by the sword die by the sword' (meaning that if you live by violence you will probably die in a violent way)
  • Jesus taught 'turn the other cheek'
  • Jesus taught 'love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'
  • St. Paul taught 'overcome evil with good'
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War, right or wrong? (2)

War is right because:

  • The Old Testament teaches 'the Lord is a warrior'
  • God told Sault to go and kill all of the Amalekites
  • God helped Joshua win the battle of Jericho
  • 'Prepare for war' (Joel 3:9) and 'Beat your ploughshares into swords' (note this is in contrast to Micah 4:3 in the section below)
  • The Old Testament clearly states that revenge is allowed when it says 'An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth'
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Pacifism and Peaceful Organisations

Key terms:

  • Violence
  • Peace
  • Jesus

Conscientios objector - some who won't fight in a particular war because their conscience says it is wrong. Sometimes these people went to prison because they refused to be involved in a way in any way. Sometimes they do other helpful jobs other than to fight in the war, such as being a chef or helping the wounded and dying on the battlefield of in the trenches.

Pacifist - someone who will never fight whatever the circumstancs (e.g. Quakers because they see something of God within everyone and therefore it would be wrong to harm that person). Jesus is an example of a pacifist. He refused to use violence to harm another human being. Making a decision about when to become involved in a war can be very difficult. Even more so when you are not directly affected by it. 

Many Christians feel that there are other ways to have a war without physical violence. They believe that you can demonstrate , have boycotts, strikes and protests. AGAPE (the principle of love) is more important that to show violence.

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Pacifism and Peaceful Organisations (2)

Peace organisations: The United Nations (not a Christian organisation) - tries to stop countries fighting, clears up land mines, UN soldiers are not allowed to fight except in self defence Pax Christi (Christian organisation) - works for disarmament, tries to stop the trade of weapons, educates people/schools about un-cleared land mines and other issues about war

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Christians Who Used Violence or Non-Violence

Christians who used non-violence:

  • Martin Luther king (against racism) used methods such as sit-ins, boycotts, freedom marches, speeches
  • Archbishop Oscar Romero (was against poverty and social injustice in South America - El Salvador). He spent the three years of his time as Archbishop protesting publicly (but non-violently) against the corrupt rulers of El Salvador. He was murdered whilst celebrating Holy Mass (communion) service, by being shot

Christians who used violence:

  • Father Camillo Torres (against poverty in south America) who left the priesthood to join the guerrillas to fight the government in an attempt to get better conditions for the poor
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer - although he was a pacifist he felt that it was better to use violence in order to defeat the evils of Hitler and so became involved in a plot to kill him (although he was not himself going to do the killing). He believed that the greater evil was sometimes doing nothing and allowing evil to happen
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Justice and Punishment

Key Terms:

  • Punishment
  • Criminals
  • Christian care of prisoners
  • Capital punishment
  • Death

Justice - the essential part of the term justice is 'fair treatment for all'. Christians believe that it is important that everyone recieves impartial justice. This is why at courts of law; there are often statues or paintings of Lady Justice. She wears a blindfold, to show that in principle, justice is always blind of a person's skin colour, race, religion, gender or wealth. The idea is that everyone gets a fair trial and the judge or jurt should not be swayed by your physical appearence. However, in reality, we know this is not true and certain groups of people are often imprisoned more than others.

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Justice and Punishment (2)


  • Christians believe in forgiveness and are taught to love their enemies
  • Jesus taught that God will judge people for their sins and that people should forgive 70x7 times (this means you go on forgiving people)
  • Jesus said when the women was about to be stoned for adultery: 'those without sin cast the first stone first' (John 8:7)
  • Jesus taught to look to your own faults first before criticising others 'don't look for sawdust in someone's eye when you have a plank in your own'
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The 5 Aims of Punishment

Christians DO believe in punishment and believe that there are 5 key aims that punishment has:

1. Deterrence (stop crime happening again, and to set an example to put other people off from copying a similar crime)

2. Protection of the innocent (while you are in prison, you cannot harm others)

3. Retribution (for the criminal to pay for the crime committed and society to see that they have been punished)

4. Reform criminals (to change them. When they are in prison, prisoners can learn new skills and get qualifications, so that when they were out of prison, they do not have to go back to a life of crime)

5. Vindiction - to show that injustice is being done to society and that the law must be respected and applauded

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Christian Responses to how Criminals are Treated

Christians are concerned with issues in prison such as unjust treatment and over crowding. The conditions need to be humane, and the need access to medical treatment. Elizabeth Fry (a Quaker) worked in the 19th century to try and make the conditions of prisoners more humane. Before this time people could literally starve to death, as often no food was provided for them and they only ate if their families brought food for them, which was no good if you had no family or were very poor. She also tried to help those criminals taken over to Australia on huge cargo ships, many of which died on the journey as conditions were so bad. Some Christians become prison visitors to try to help the prisoners as they believe it is important to remember parable like the sheep and the goats.

Amnesty International (not a Christian organisation) works against social injustice. They are against torture and wrongful imprisonment. They get people to write letters to people who are wrongfully imprisoned. They send petitions to unjust governments. They organise demonstrations to get people aware of what is going on. 

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Capital Punishment

This is also known as the 'death penalty' and is used in many countries around the world, including (not all) several states in the USA. Theere are arguements for and against the death penalty, however most Christians believe that it goes against most Christian teachings and does not support the idea of AGAPE (love).


  • Society must protect its most vulnerable members. Society must also protect those at the forefront of the fight againstcrime, especially police officers.
  • The death penalty is the most appropriate punishment for someone who has taken the life of someone else.
  • Some people are so violent that they only understand the language of violence. It is the only effective deterrent for violent people.
  • Putting a murderer to death is the only really effective way of protecting society - they cannot kill again.
  • A 'life' sentence does not really mean life. Most murderers are freed before they complete their sentence and this places society at risk
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Capital Punishment (2)


  • The injustice system is not infallible and we know that many innocent people were executed in the past
  • Only God can ultimately judge - he gave life and he alone can take it away
  • There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent. 80 per cent of all murderers are known to their victims and are often family members. Domestic murderers are very unlikely to kill again
  • Executing people who kill for political reasons would turn them into martyrs and this could lead to more deaths
  • Execution is barbaric. Life is sacred and should not be taken it in this way in a civilised society. Society is little more than a murderer itself if it executes criminals
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Liberation Theology and Social Injustice

Key words:

  • Inequality
  • Discrimination
  • Liberation
  • Oscar Romero

Liberation Theology 

 This is a modern development of Christian Church thinking. It concerns itself with injustice anhywhere in the world, and fights for all to be treated equally. It is especially popular in South America and African countries and parts of Asia where people could be very poor and governments treat them badly. They gather strength from the example of all the suffering that Jesus went through. Some people believe that Jesus came to earth to help the poor and that they should follow his example. Jesus said: 'The spirit of the Lord is on me... he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed...' (Luke 4:18). They believe that Jesus came to set the poor free - to liberate them. In the Third World Liberation Theology began in the middle of the last century. This movement involved people such as Oscar Romero and Camillo Torres. 

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Liberation Theology and Social Injustice (2)

Social Injustice

  • Christians beliebe everyone equally valuble to God (he created everyone) so even refuges should be treated the same way
  • God has no favourites
  • Bible teaches it is wrong to mistreat the poor because everyone is made in the 'image' of God
  • 'When you give to the poor, it is like Lending to the Lord and the Lord will pay you back'
  • 'If you oppress poor people, you insult God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship'
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Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero was a supporter of Liberation Theology. He was the Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador but was murdered on the 24th March 1980 by people working for the government. He had spent his three years as Archbishop criticising those who made El Salvador a dangerous, violent and unfair place to live. He called for land reform and a fairer distribution of wealth. He used the church's radio stati0on to speak out about all the torture and murder which was going on. He set up a place where people could go for advice. He mentioned the names of those who had been responsible for their suffering. He allowed people fleeing from the brutal treatment to shelter in his churches. He dared to write an open letter to the US president to plead with him to stop sending arms supplies to the military regime of his country.

He lived his live according to the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. In 1980 he was shot dead whilst he was celebrating mass at the altar of a hospital chapel.

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Criminals: these are people who have committed a crime and can be put in prison for it.

Conscientios Objector: this is when someone follows their conscience (the inner voice of God) and does not go to a specific war. He/she may use violence on another occasion if they felt it was necessary.

Holy War: this is a war fought in to protect a religion; for example when Christians fought against the Muslims in the Crusades. The Christians were trying to free Jerusalem.

Justice: this means that people are treated fairly in all ways.

Just War: this refers to the terms/rules under which was is allowed. There are six rules which say going to war can happen.

Pacifism: this term refers to no violence at all. Someone who was a pacifist would not fight back under any circumstances.

Social Injustice: this refers to unfair treatment of a person or group of people: such as sexism, racism, poverty and ageism.

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Useful Quotes

  • 'Thou shall not kill'
  • 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'
  • 'Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it'
  • 'Blessed are the peacemakers'
  • 'Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.'
  • 'They will beat up their swords into plough shars, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore'
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