War Peace and Human Rights

AS Ethics

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: mollie
  • Created on: 21-04-12 10:45

War, Peace and Human Rights

ask whether it is ever right to go to war.

We look at one tradition that provides a justification for going to war - Just War Theory. We also consider the view that it is always wrong to engage in war - Pacifism.

consider how some people have used non-violent methods to achieve their goals.

look at Human Rights, with a particular focus on those who have had their basic rights abused. This includes people locked up for their beliefs - prisoners of conscience.

look at those who have broken the law, and ask how best to respond. Why do we punish criminals, and does it work?

1 of 22

Key Terms:

Holy war: Some religions have claimed that wars can be holy if they are fought in the name of God.

Pacifism: Refusal to use violence or to fight in wars

Conscientious Objector: Person who refuses, on the basis of conscience, to fight in a war. COs can serve in non-combatant roles, e.g. stretcher-bearer. CO does not have to be a pacifist, he may just object to a particular war.

Prisoner of conscience: Someone imprisoned for what they believe or who they are, not for what they have done

2 of 22

Fact file

  • Total global military expenditure = approx. $1.5 million a minute.

  • WWI killed 9 million men, and seriously wounded over 21 million more.

  • 50% of victims in WWII were civilians.

  • 90% of victims in wars today are civilians.

  • Between 200,000 and 400,000 women were ***** in Bangladesh during a nine-month conflict in 1971.

3 of 22

Causes and effects of war

Humans have a violent streak in their nature, probably because of fighting for survival for thousands of years. The main causes of war today are:

  • Politics / ideology e.g. Communism Vs Capitalism
  • Religion e.g. Protestant Vs Catholic, Muslim Vs Jew
  • Nationalism e.g. Getting rid of a foreign rule
  • Race / ethnicity e.g. Serb Vs Croat
  • Lust for power / money e.g. Seizing land of other nations, e.g. Hitler
  • Revenge e.g. Being defeated in a previous war
  • Economics e.g. Fighting to provide better resources for own people
  • Injustice e.g. Fighting an oppressive situation or regime, fighting for justice
  • Fear e.g. Defence against a threatening military enemy
  • A powerful individual/group e.g. a dictator who tries to rule others by force
4 of 22

The main effects of war are:

  • Millions of deaths – more than 30,000 people die every month because of war.
  • Many die because countries spend money on weapons, not clean water, food, health or education.
  • Massive environmental damage.
  • 90% of victims in war are innocent civilians –
  • Massive refugee crisis (e.g. Afghanistan today), resulting in starvation, misery and death.
5 of 22

Just War Theory

Some people, including Christians, believe it is never right to go to war. They are called Pacifists. However, most people believe that in certain cases you have a duty to fight. A good example is when Hitler invaded Poland in the Second World War.

Christian theologians have thought about which circumstance must apply if a war is to be justified. They arrived at the Just War theory - a set of rules that must befollowed when going to war. All of the principles must apply if a war is to be justified.

The Just War criteria are generally agreed upon in the Western world. When Bush and Blair declared war on Iraq in 2003, they both argued that war was right according to these criteria. As these ideas have been around for hundreds of years, many people feel they need to be updated to take account of Nuclear weapons or global terrorism, but very few people argue that we should get rid of these ideas completely. The Just War principles are accepted by most people as a useful guide when declaring war on another nation.

6 of 22


Jesus told his followers to 'turn the other cheek' and 'love your enemies'. The early Church was pacifist, believing that Jesus had taught a different way of solving problems. This changed when the Roman Empire became Christian, but many Christians and non-Christians remain commited to Pacifism.

In the modern world, where we see the damage done by weapons in war, more and more people are supporting anti-war positions. Over a million people marched against Iraq, although this was a specific conflict and many of these protestors would support some military intervention.

Now that we have weapons that could kill everyone on the planet several times over, there is a strong belief that it is wrong to use weapons to solve problems.

7 of 22


 People who object to war on principle are generally committed to non-violence. However, this unit focusses more on civil action - peaceful protests such as marches and demonstrations. For example, it looks at how someone like Martin Luther King was able to change the political inequality in southern USA without resorting to violence.

The non-violent approach comes directly out of Jesus' teaching, but Jesus did use violence himself, and his disciples carried swords. We will look at whether Christians should be limited to a non-violent approach, or whether it is sometimes necessary to use violence.

8 of 22

Human Rights and Prisoners of Conscience

During the Second World War, unimaginable things were done to people by fellow human beings. After the war, people from all nations agreed that some things should never happen. All human beings, simply because they are human, are worthy of respect, justice, and having their basic needs met.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration consisting of 30 articles outlining the specific human rights that all people hold. For example:

Article 1 - All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 3 - Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5 - No one shall be subjected to torture.

Article 19 - Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression

9 of 22

In some countries, individuals are denied their rights because of their race, gender, beliefs or sexuality. Ordinary members of society, such as lawyers or teachers, may be arrested and imprisoned for standing up for basic human rights. When someone is jailed because of their beliefs, and not because of any crime they have commited, they are called 'prisoners of conscience'.

10 of 22

Crime and Punishment

The issue of crime divides opinion, both in society and in churches. Some people see others as either 'good' or 'bad' - criminals are people who break the law and deserve to be punished. They want to see justice, and expect criminals to suffer for what they have done.

Others just see criminals as people like us who have made bad choices, maybe got in with a bad crowd. They think everyone deserves a second chance, and hope that punishments may help to make you a better person.

11 of 22

Churches and Punishment

Roman Catholic Church

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person

a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offence incapable of doing harm--without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself--the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are rare, if not practically non-existent.

12 of 22

Church of England

On Criminal Justice:

This Synod

  1. welcomes Her Majesty's Government's commitment to the development of restorative justice programmes which enshrine the biblical principles of holding offenders responsible for their crimes, addressing the needs of victims, and enhancing the protection of the public.
  2. welcome efforts to prevent 15 and 16 year olds being remanded into prison custody by offering constructive alternatives in the community.
  3. note the continuing public concern about the effect of crime in our communities;
  4. record its unease at the disproportionate number of black offenders in our prisons, and welcome initiatives to eradicate racism throughout the judicial and penal system;
13 of 22

  1. request Her Majesty's Government to reassess the situation whereby mentally ill people are often held in prison when they would be better treated in a secure hospital environment;
  2. recognise the need to reintegrate offenders into the community through prison and community based programmes and in partnership with employment and accommodation schemes;
  3. affirm the role of prison staff, chaplains, Boards of Visitors and volunteers and the part they play in supporting the families of people in prison.

The Church of England is a full member of the Churches' Criminal Justice Forum (CCJF). CCJF makes its own submissions to Government and also engages in work on the resettlement of prisoners, women's prisons and visiting. It also has a Criminal Justice and a Policy Officer who engage in educational work with church congregations.

14 of 22

The Bible and Punishment

The Old Testament provided a legal framework for the emerging Jewish nation. As such, it lists many specific punishments for different crimes. The idea behind these is that the punishment should not exceed the offense. Moses taught:

"If anyone injures his neighbour, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured, so he is to be injured".

15 of 22

The New Testament did not set out rules for structuring society. However, Jesus challenged people to rethink assumptions made based on Old Testament thinking. He said that Moses taught 'an eye for an eye' because that was what people needed. However, it is better to 'turn the other cheek' if someone wrongs you. We all need forgiveness, which Jesus showed when he met a crowd that wanted to stone a woman to death for adultery.

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

16 of 22

The New Testament gives few clues about how Christians should respond to crime. However, Christians are told to respect the authority of the state, which means keeping to the law and accepting the punishments.

"Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God."

17 of 22

Smart Justice

Some Churches try to folow Jesus' teaching quite literally, by visiting people in prison. Find out more about the Greenwich Church, a church that tries to live out their faith in the way they treat those in prison, and those released from prison.

Smart Justice campaigns for more alternatives to custody and promotes initiatives that are effective in changing offenders' behaviour, stopping crime before it starts and tackling the causes of crime for adults and young people. They are based at the Prison Reform Trust in London. SmartJustice was initiated by the Network for Social Change, the group behind the Jubilee 2000, Drop the Debt campaign. Their aim is to widen the debate on crime and punishment with the general public and the media, to question the effectiveness of prison for non violent offenders and to campaign for more investment in initiatives that tackle the causes of crime and for better resourced alternatives to custody.

18 of 22

Their work includes public events and regional activities, extensive media coverage, talks to a wide variety of community groups and schools and regular briefings on criminal justice including major surveys, on victims views about how to cut non violent crime, in partnership with Victim Support and a survey on women in prison. They also run targeted campaigns, currently on women and prison, young people and crime and the links between drugs, drink, mental health and crime.

19 of 22

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment, or the death penalty, is the execution of a criminal by the state. Most countries have used the death penalty at some time in their past, and many still do. This includes communist countries, such as China (470 executions in 2007), Muslim countries, e.g. Iran (317 executions in 2007), and predominantly Christian countries, such as USA (42 executions in 2007).

20 of 22


ForAgainst Protection - once killed, a very dangerous criminal is no longer a threat Mistakes - innocent people will be killed. Many death-row inmates have been released due to new evidence. Cost - it costs £27,000 per year for the average prisoner, more for serious offenders. Why waste that money? Apart from innocent people being killed, the trauma of an innocent fighting a death penalty is far worse than just appealing a conviction Retrbution - a murderer has taken someone's life, which can never be brought back, and deserves to die Justice - the death penalty is never used fairly. In America, ric h, white people are likely to be able to afford lawyers to get them off, so more poor black people end up dying Deterrence - people will be scared of the death penalty and will not kill others Murderers are still people (or 'children of God made in His image'). It is wrong to kill The family of a murder victim cannot get on with their lives until the murderer is dead It is hypocritical - you kill someone because you hate the idea of killing someone The majority of people want the death penalty - it is democratic It turns someone into a murderer The Bible says 'an eye for an eye' - it is God's justice It is barbaric, painful and inhuman

21 of 22


What two questions does the Just War Theory attempt to answer?

22 of 22


No comments have yet been made

Similar Ethics resources:

See all Ethics resources »