Religious Studies B: Religion, War and Peace


The causes of war

Conflict: occurs when peoples ideas, interests, values or personalitites clash and they cannot agree with each other. When countries cannot resolve thier conflicts peacefully they sometimes resort to armed conflict or war

Why do people go to war:

- to defend thier country against attack.

- to defend thier beliefs, religion, freedom and the way of life or sometimes to extend those to other people

- to defend an ally or protect a weaker country that was unfairly attacked

- to remove thier own leader or covernment (cival war)

 - to gain more land or region lost in previous wars

- to gain wealth, power or important resources

- to stop atrocities such as genocide in another country or to dipose a dictator

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The Vietnam war and the Falklands conflict

The Vietnam war:

From 1959 to 1975 a war took place in Vietnam. The communist government of North Vietnam supported by other communist countries fought against the govenment of South Vietnam who where supported by the USA and others. The North won the war. The communists then reunified and took over Laos and Cambodia. Besides the millions killed in the conflict, the war created a massive problem of refugees. The refugees often known as 'boat people' fled to South Vietnem, Laos and Cambodia when the conflict ended. They risked death in boats that were not sea worthy to get away.

The Falklands conflict:

The Falklands and Soth Georgia are British territories however Argentina has claimed that they belong to them. In April 1982, Argentina invaded then Irlands to take them over. Britain took a taskforce to protect the islanders and regain control. Argentina surrendered in June 1982. The war had not been officially declared however 907 people had lost thier lives over a battle that lasted 74 days.

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Consequences of war

Some consequences of war are positive such as freedom from an occupying power or the replacement of a corrupt government with something better that can bring benefits to the country's people.

However, the main consequences of war are negative as conflicts cause death and injuries among both memebers of the armed forces and civilians. Also theere is destruction of the countries economy, culture and infrastructure. Disease and famine can spread when fresh water supplies have been contaminated and homeless refugees are often reduced to living in camps in poor conditions. The cost of the conflict is enormous as every hour £100 million is spent worldwide on weapens of war- money that could go to solving problems of world poverty and hunger.

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Peace, justice and the sanctity of life

Peace: is an absence of conflict which leads to happiness and harmony. Peace is taken for granted in some countries. Real peace involves a feeling of wellbeing. Being at peace with oneself brings a calness and tranquility that helps a person to avoid quarrels with others.

Justice: is bringing about what is right, fair, according to the law or making up for what has been done wrong. some people say that without justice there can never be peace. 

Sanctity of life: life is sacred because it is god given

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pacifism: the belief of people who refuse to take part in war any other form of violence. pacifists think that wars can never be justified  they refuse to fight. killing is against their conscience

what do pacifists believe:

sanctity of life is important. killing goes against teachings in sacred writings. they believe the suffering is out of proportion to the evil being fought. War danages the environment and wastes precious lives and resources. negotiations are needed in the end to settle the disputes. using violence to achieve freedom or other positive goals is sinking to the same level as the oppresser

Christians and Pacifism:

The early Christians practised non-violence. Today they follow the example of jesus who taught his followers to live and work in peace.  Christian pacifists are willing to die, but not to kill for their beliefs. They will not serve as troops but are willing to serve as ambulance drivers, nurses or in other non-fighting roles.

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turning the tide and religions

turning the tide is a campaign group that work for peace. It aims to show how cycles of conflict can be broken through negotiation and non-violent strategies. 


peace and non-violence are central to Buddhism. Part of the eight fold path requires living in harmony with others. Violence destroys both the doer and the receiver as it destroys inner peace. Buddhists follow the first precept, 'I will not harm any living thing'


Muslims seek a just and peaceful world. The route of the word 'Islam' means peace and Muslims say 'Salaam' meaning 'Peace be upon you'. Muslims should not seek revenge as it is wrong to return evil with evil.

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'Just' war

Just war: a war that the Christian Church defines as acceptable

these are the conditions for a Just war:

- if started in self-defense

- be lawfully declared by a proper authority

- have a good intention and once it aims are achieved it must end

- be a last resort after all other ways of resolving the problem have been tried first

- have a reasonable chance of success

- be fought by just means and in proportion to the aims it seeks to achieve

- only occur if the good achieved will outweigh the evil that led to the war.

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'Holy' war

holy war: fighting for a religious cause or God probably controlled by a religious leader

Holy wars have religious aims or goals. They are authorised by God or by a religious leader. Those who take part believe they will gain a spiritual reward. Religious leaders may declare a holy war to defend their religion or their followers who are being persecuted in another country.

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Christianity and war

Although Jesus taught peace, forgiveness and overcoming evil with good as he opposed wrongdoing.

The Roman Catholic Church promotes peace by working to end the causes of injustice. It condems use of weapons of mass destruction, but recognises teh right of self-defence as a last resort.

Some South American Christians support 'liberation theology' which means they accept fighting to otherthrow unjust, oppressive governments.

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Religions and war

Buddhism: Theravada Buddhists believe that killing is always wrong. Mahayana Buddhists believe that killing is justified if it is to save the lives of innocent people. However it must be carried out unselfishly and with a willingness to accept bad spiritual consequences.

Islam: Muslims believe in the 'just' war, (jihad). The greater jihad is the fight against temptation in their lives and the lesser jihad is military struggle in defense of Islam. The Qur'an gives those who have been attacked permission to fight back.

a jihad war must:

- be started and controlled by a religious leader, have a just cause, be a last resort, keep suffering including that of an innocent civilian to a minimum, protect trees crops and animals, not be fought to gain territory or as an act of aggression, aim to restore peace and freedom, enable the release of all prisoners of war. Those killed in jihad are seen as martyrs who will enter paradise.

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Victims of war

Victims of war: war has many victims besides the soldiers that are injured and killed. Survivors can have long lasting physical and mental injuries. Cities, homes, families and friends are either destroyed or lost and some children may even become orphans. Some people become refugees as they flee from thier homes to other countries with few possessions and no rights

The red cross and red crescent: they are a volunteer group world wide that help protect and ensure respect for human life and prevent surfering.

The red cross help organise medical care for wounded soldiers, supervises treatment of prisoners of war, searches for missing people, protects civilians and can act as a neutral intermediary between the warring sides.

Red cross and red cresent may not be seen as neutral anymore as volunteers have been killed while trying to help in some countries

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Religious believers who have worked for peace

Tenzin Cyatso, born in 1935 in Tibet was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama.

In 1950 the chinese army invaded Tibet despite peace talks and attempts to bring about peaceful solutions the chinease treated Tibetan people badly. Thousands demonstrated on the streets of Lhasa, calling for the chinese to leave. The chinese crushed the Tibetan National Uprising and over 80,000 Tibetans fled the country.

As a Buddhist the Dalai Lama refused to consider violence to win back his country, instead he encouraged refugees to save the Tibetan culture and way of life. Over 200 monasteries were established in India and refugee children were taught Tibetan language, history, religion and culture. He still works for a peaceful resolution and in 1989 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He has opposed people to find peaceful solutions based on tolerance and mutual respect to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.

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Religious believers who have worked for peace

Irena Sendler was a Roman Catholic who worked as a social worker in Poland.

In 1939 the Germans invaded Poland and did not enjoy human rights. Under Nazi rule, Jews were severly prosecuted and were forced to live in concentration camps and wear yellow stars of David so that they could easily be identified.

Irena was a member of the Polish resistance an undercover organisation working against the Germans. She offered Jews food and shelter and helped create over 3,000 false documents so Jewush families could avoid arrest.

She organised summugling of children from ghetto's. She was arrested in 1943, severely tortured and sentenced to death. The resistance saved her by bribing guards. She then lived in hiding and carried on her work. When the war ended she dug up the jars and tried to reunite the children with their origonal families. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007

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Keeping the peace in times of terror

The United Nations: It was set up at the end of WW2 and now has 192 member states. It seeks to persuade countries to settle their differences without fighting. Its aims are:

- to help countries cooperate with each other through international law and society, economic development, social progress, the protection of human rights, to establish world peace.

Sometimes the UN intervenes directly in a conflict. More often it sends peacekeeping forces, with troops supplied by member nations. These are placed between opposing armies, or between groups within a country where a cival war is taking place, to stop the fighting. They do their best to protect civilians and ensure aid is given where it is needed. They also help keep peace once the conflict is over. It has a court where serious crimes against humanity committed during wars and other disputes are tried.

NATO: Was created in 1949. It is a military alliance. If a NATO country is attacked the others see it as their own country being attacked

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Terrorism is the unlawful use of extreme violence, usually against innocent civilians to achieve a political goal. The target is to achieve maximum publicity  and terrify the public. Terrorists that are mtivated by religion believe God will reward them for doing what they see as his will.

Most people think terrorism can never be justified because it harms innocent people and promoted fear.

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Weapons of mass destruction

Weapons of mass destruction: they are weapons that kill large numbers of people.

- Biological weapons have bacteria, viruses or other infective material in them that can lead to disease or death. Although they were banned they have been used since and are stilled being developed in many nations

- Chemical weapons were used in WW1 despite being banned in 1925. They are still being manufactured and stockpiled.

- Nuclear weapons cause huge devastation. Today's nuclear weapons would destroy life on earth.

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Arguments for nuclear weapons: some people accept nuclear weapons even if they do not want them to be used. They say the weapons act as a deterrent. They might agree in the reduction of weapons but they think it would make a country vulnerable if they were disposed of altogether.

Arguements against nuclear weapons: some people are in favour of getting rid of the weapons. There was a campaign set up for nuclear disarmament (CND). The proliferation of nuclear weapons makes the chances greater that irresponsible governments or terrorists might obtain them. The destruction is unjustified. Their use goes against all the principles of the 'Just War'. All religions oppose the use of nuclear weapons. 

Proliferation: spreading to other countries and getting more numerous

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