Every month, we will choose a justice and issue and provide basic information to help kick start your own judgements and actions.
PEACE AND CONFLICT
Basic Information on the Just War Doctrine
To judge whether or not entering into wars are just, it is necessary to explore the principles of the Just War Doctrine, which guide our response to conflict. The Catholic Church’s teaching on this is complex. Teachings on this topic date back to the Sermon of the Mount to today with messages by Pope Francis. “Catholic teaching on peace and war has had two purposes: to help Catholics form their conscience and to contribute to the public policy debate about the morality of war.” Significant documents on peace include “Pacem in Terris”, the Second Vatican Council’s expressing their stance on peace and the “The Challenge of Peace”, written by the US Catholic Bishops.
As Christians, we recognise that each person is endowed with dignity given by God. Therefore, we must strive to avoid war in order to uphold and protect humanity. In Scripture, we find the commandment, “You shall not kill”. Jesus asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger must not cause us to kill. However, although we must not love violence, we must be prepared to promote peace and not let evil prevail. In circumstances where there is a threat of evil prevailing, it may be necessary to use force. “As long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defence, once all peace efforts have failed.” At the core, we must recognise that we are called to peace given through the risen Christ and are encouraged to contribute to bringing peace in our world through forgiveness, love and mercy.
Two Stands of the Just War Doctrine
The Just War Doctrine has two strands – Just ad Bellum (why and when recourse to war is permissible and Jus in Bello (obligation to act justly during in war)
The Church offers strict conditions for entering into war. The Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines this in paragraph 2309:
The strict conditions for legitimate defence by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
In summary, the text reveals that one can only enter into war to counter aggression; that war should only be entered into if all other means have been proven to be ineffective; that there are serious expectations of success and that the use of arms will not be graver than the existing evil to be eliminated.
The Catechism also makes it clear that the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
The weight of a decision to enter into war is grave. Serious considerations need to be assessed against our moral obligations to respect and protect life. This obligation also extends even after a war has commenced. There are teachings offered by the Church in ensuring that conduct during a war is just and moral. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church at 2312, it states, “The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything become licit between the warring parties.”
Certain events have been recorded, where the innocent suffered unjustly due to brutal acts of torture, rape and murder. The Church stresses the moral illegitimacy of these actions. At 2313 of the Catechism, it explains, “Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.”
Whilst there is an obligation to ensure that entering into a war is on just terms, there are also moral obligations to persevere justice during a war. Nations must work to create peace among each other in the hope of finally arriving to a time as Isaiah explains, “shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” Therefore, “The Christian tradition possesses two ways to address conflict: nonviolence and just war. They both share the common goal: to diminish violence in this world” (U.S. Bishops, A Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace).
“Blessed are the Peacemakers” (Matt 5.9)
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Current Wars & Conflicts
As we continue to hear of the turmoil and conflict in countries around the world, it is often difficult to keep track of the on-going wars. Here is a list taken from InternationalRelations.com of the current wards and conflicts.
“Wars,” defined as producing more than 1,000 battle-related fatalities in the year.
- Syria – The world’s bloodiest war by far; also has generated millions of refugees. Atrocities on all sides but primarily the government. Spread to Iraq in 2014. Still no solution in sight.
- Afghanistan – Fate of government uncertain as international community draws down forces and Taliban persists.
- Iraq – Radical Islamists from the U.S. war in Iraq fought in Syria and in 2014 seized much land and resources with support of Sunni tribes who oppose Shi’ite government.
- Pakistan – After collapse of peace talks, government battling Taliban elements in autonomous tribal areas adjacent to Afghanistan.
- Nigeria – In the north, a violent Islamist group has instigated repeated violence such as bombings, and government attacks in response. Sad day when the Islamist terrorists blew up the UN building in 2011. Now they are killing women polio vaccine workers. The fighting occasionally spills over into neighboring Cameroon.
- R. Congo – Beefed-up peacekeepers suppressed one armed group in the violent east of the country, and in 2104 were trying to coax another to disarm. Sporadic but really nasty fighting continues to erupt in certain eastern locations.
- South Sudan – After a long north-south war, the south voted for independence, achieved in 2011. But South Sudan itself slipped into a bloody civil war (along ethnic lines) that reportedly has killed tens of thousands. A shaky cease-fire has been in effect since May 2014.
- Israel/Gaza – Current fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has exceeded a thousand killed. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
- Ukraine – Low-level fighting, ongoing in the east near Russia, has killed more than a thousand in 2014, in addition to the hundreds killed by the shoot-down of a civilian jet. Government is trying to dislodge pro-Russian armed separatists from territory they control. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
- Libya – New fighting in 2014 between armed militias that overthrew Gaddafi in 2011. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
SERIOUS ARMED CONFLICTS
- Central African Republic – Alarming levels of sectarian fighting (Muslim-Christian) with the potential for a genocide. Low-level with outbreaks of horrible violence. Cease-fire agreed July 30, 2014. [Added to list by me based on 2014 fighting.]
- India – Little Maoist insurgencies of long standing; now in a cease-fire with one main group, may be winding down.
- Mali – Islamists were routed from north by French, but ethnic insurgency threatens to erupt again; cease-fire agreed in May 2014.
- The Philippines – Sporadic residual fighting with Islamist militants on southern islands.
- Russia – Low-level Islamist militants from the south, including Chechnya, stage incidents and bombings sporadically.
- Somalia – African Union troops (mostly from nearby countries such as Uganda) restored government control of all major cities, leaving al Shabab militants in the countryside to carry out occasional bombings in the cities they no longer control (and in neighboring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia).
- Sudan – The genocide in Darfur was mainly in 2004, but brutal incidents continue there; rebels remain active.
- Yemen – The post-Saleh government with many competing factions has had some success against Islamic militants who had seized some towns in the south, but ethnic-based fighting has flared up in the north.
 Mark 10:19
 CCC 2302
 Vatican II Gradium et epes 79, 4
 CCC 2302
 Isaiah 2:4