Goffs School Religious Studies

Topic 3 – Peace and Conflict

Causes of War

Religious reasonspeople fight over religious differences. Examples include the Crusades (Christianity and Islam fighting over the Holy Land) and Northern Ireland (Catholics and Protestants fighting).

Economic reasonswhere countries fight over natural resources or to acquire more land for farming etc. The First Iraq war is an example. Iraq invaded Kuwait for its oil.
Social reasonswhere different social groups fight over land, political differences or their rights. The  Rwandan genocide is an example as ethnic Tutsis attack and kill ethnic Hutus over perceived inequalities in politics and business.
Moral reasonsOne country might invade another to stop violence of repression. The US and UK bombed Serbia to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
Organisations working for peace
The UN – this is an international organisation that brings governments together and tries to stop wars happening diplomatically. It is based in New York where most countries have UN ambassadors.
The UN can also send peacekeepers to keep peace in others countries, such as Rwanda. These are soldiers who keep the peace.
Other UN organisations like the United Nations High commission for Refugees and UNICEF deal with people fleeing war zones and suffering because of war.
The Quakers – this is a Christian group also called the Society of Friends. They are pacifists who do not believe in war. They often work for peace.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine brings Muslims, Christians and Jews together to resolve religious conflict.

Christian Teachings on War, Conflict and Peace

  • Jesus taught that ‘those who live by the sword die by the sword’ (Bible). Therefore, most Christians believe in being peaceful and working towards peace.
  • Jesus also taught that you should ‘love your neighbour…’ (Bible). Killing is not very loving.
  • He also said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers… for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’ during His Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes – on the Bible too).
  • The Bible teaches ‘Thou shall not kill’.
  • We are all made by God. It is not humanity’s right to take away life through war.
  • Quakers and Jehovah Witnesses (both Christian groups) are pacifists. This means they avoid all violence and do not join in wars. Many other Christians sympathise.
Christian Teachings on War
Not all Christians avoid war and many are not pacifists. Some use Thomas Aquinas’ Just War Theory to argue that sometimes war is justifiable.
Aquinas was a Catholic theologian (Christian thinker) in medieval times. He argued that in some cases war could be justified if it helped ‘good’ things happen. Perhaps stopping Nazis taking over Europe is a ‘Just War’. He argued that:
1. The war must be for a just (fair/good) cause
2. A war must be declared by a lawful authority
3. A war must be fought to bring about good
4. War must be a last resort
5. There must be a reasonable chance of success
6. Only necessary force must be used
7. Only legitimate targets must be attacked
Some people may look to Joesph Fletcher’s ‘Situation Ethics’ and argue war is justified if it helps people and saves people. Is it more unloving to do nothing?!

Forgiveness and reconciliation in Christianity

  • Forgiveness is a key Christian belief. Jesus asked God to forgive those that crucified Him whilst on the cross.
  • The Lords Prayer emphasizes this with the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”. This is also in the Bible, but Jesus uses the word ‘debts’.
  • Jesus said you should “love you neighbour as yourself”. If you like to be forgiven, then forgive others too. Jesus also said you should “love your enemy”.
  • Christians must forgive in order to be forgiven by God.
  • At Holy Communion (Eucharist/mass) Christians ask for forgiveness as they take the bread and wine. They seek forgiveness for their sins as well as receiving Jesus’ forgiveness. This is important to Christian believers.
  • In the Roman Catholic Church there is confession. This is really called the Sacrament of Reconciliation where Catholics seek forgiveness and admit their sins to a priest.
  • Reconciliation can mean the Sacrament, as in the Catholic Church, but also the idea that people forgive one another and learn to live together, even love one another again!
  • Martin Luther king Jr. emphasized forgiving racists so that society could move on without hatred. This is the idea behind “reconciliation”.
  • In South Africa, despite the violence of apartheid, Desmond Tutu said blacks and whites must go through reconciliation if the country is to be strong and move on. He set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where people admitted racist crimes, including murder, and were forgiven by their victims. This helped heal these emotional wounds.
  • However, a minority of Christians may look to teachings such as an “eye for an eye” from the Old Testament to justify the death penalty etc., but many Christians still believe forgiveness is more important. Christians often advocate reformation (reform of character) as an aim of punishment.

Christian attitudes to Bullying

  • Christians believe you should ‘love you neighbour’ (Bible) and bullying is not following this.
  • He also said to ‘treat others like you would treat yourself’ (the Golden Rule)
  • Jesus said the ‘meek’ (or weak) were blessed in His Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes).
  • Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the persecuted’. This could include the bullied.
  • He said he wanted to help ‘outcasts’ – those treated badly by others.
  • However, as above, even bullies should be forgiven.

Buddhist teachings on War and Peace

  • Buddhism teaches that to harm life goes against the first precept. Therefore, war could be seen as doing this.
  • Buddhism also includes ahimsa, which means one should be peaceful.
  • War and conflict are not showing metta (loving kindness) to others.
  • War is not a solution to conflict as the resulting negative karma will last generations.
  • Those who advocate war over peace or are advocates of war, violence and confrontation will generate bad karma and have a poor rebirth.
  • War and conflict are nor Right Action, which is part of Right Action.
  • Resorting to war without trying for peace or conflict resolution could be seen as a lack of mindfulness, which goes against Right Mindfulness.
  • Threatening an enemy could be seen as going against Right Speech.
  • Selling weapons or even being a soldier could go against Right Livelihood.
  • If war protects innocents from harm it could be seen as Right Intention.
  • Diplomacy and peace talks could be seen as Right Intention and Effort. Peacekeeping could be seen as Right Intention and Livelihood.
  • Peace will be advocated as it shows Right Understanding.

Forgiveness and reconciliation in Buddhism

  • Forgiveness would be seen as metta – showing loving kindness to the person who wronged you.
  • Being forgiving will give you good karma and a good rebirth.
  • If you do not forgive, you will be full of hate and this will make you suffer (the 1st of the 4 Noble Truths).
  • Showing forgiveness is Right Intention and Effort.
  • Reconciliation will result from forgiveness and can be seen as good karma (positive consequence).
  • The Buddhist acceptance of ahimsa (peace) is served by reconciliation.
  • Reconciliation will have good karmic consequences for all involved.

Bullying in Buddhism

  • Bullies are not showing metta (loving kindness) and will receive bad karma.
  • Bullies are not showing Right Intention. Also, it is hard not to join in bullying and, therefore, goes against Right Effort.
  • Bullying often invoves hateful words, which go against Right Speech and the 4th precept – to abstain from false speech.
  • Physical bullying goes against Right Action and breaks the 1st precept – not to harm.
  • However, bullies are often victims and some Buddhists would say we should also forgive them and show them metta. Others would say their punishment is their karma.
  • Although bullying is unacceptable to Buddhists, they may believe that the victim was bad in a former life and is consequently being bullied in this one.

Islamic (Muslim) Teaching about War and Peace

  • Muslims say war is only acceptable if it is a Jihad. There are two Jihads – the Greater and Lesser Jihad.
  • The Greater Jihad is the fight within oneself to avoid temptation, sin and being immoral.
  • The lesser Jihad is often called holy war. When Muslims, or their faith or territory are under attack, Islam permits (some say directs) the believer to wage military war to protect them.
  • However, Islamic (shari’ah) law sets very strict rules for the conduct of such a war.
  • In recent years the most common meaning of Jihad has been Holy War.
  • And there is a long tradition of Jihad being used to mean a military struggle to benefit Islam.
The Rules of Jihad (from shari’ah law). War can only be declared if is for:
•Protecting the freedom of Muslims to practise their faith
•Protecting Muslims against oppression, which could include overthrowing a tyrannical ruler
  • No non-combatants should be hurt (that means a Muslim should avoid hurting innocent people and/or civilians).
  • A islamic leader must declare the war. It must be religious.

Muslim Teachings on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

  • Muslims believe that only Allah can truly forgive wrongdoing. However, the Qur’an does teach Muslims to, “Show forgiveness, speak for Justice, and avoid the ignorant”.
  • Muslims are taught that it is important to forgive those that have sinned against them as Allah will forgive their sins.
  • Forgiveness is what matters most to Allah.
  • The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also believed in forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Muhammad (pbuh) used to help resolve blood feuds in Mecca.
  • When Muhammad (pbuh) captured the city of Mecca from those who did not like Islam, he forgave his enemies and said, “You are all free”.
  • Muhammad (pbuh) said you should, “Control your anger, then forgive your brother. Do you not wish to be forgiven?”
  • The Day of Judgement is important to Muslims as they will either go to Paradise or Hell. In order to be ready for this day, Muslims are taught to admit mistakes, ask Allah for forgiveness, make up for wrongdoings, and try not to sin again.
  • However, Muslims should not forgive all things. Muhammad (pbuh) said Muslims must not “forgive the willfully unjust”. They must protect Islam and the innocent from those that want to harm them.
  • Muslims are also taught to control their anger.

Bullying in Islam

  • Bullying is seen as evil in Islam.
  • The Qur’an teaches that everyone was created equally by Allah.
  • Bullying is a form of injustice and Muslims were warned against this by Muhammad.
  • Islam teaches that all Muslims are brother (and sisters) in the ummah and should treat each other with respect.
  • Muslims are taught to show compassion to the weak.
  • “Allah will not show mercy to those who do not show mercy to others” (Qur’an).
  • Bullies will be judged on Judgement Day. If unjust, they may go to hell.

Religious Conflict within Families

Both strict Christian, Buddhist and Muslim parents may argue or fall out with their less religious (secular) children.
Some reasons for this could be:

  • Arranged marriages – Catholics should marry Catholics. Muslims should marry other Muslims. Some Hindus marry based on caste. However, Buddhists believe marriage is separate to religion.
  • Same-sex relationships – the Bible says that, “One man will not lie with another like they would a women. It is an abomination.” Some Buddhists would accept homosexuality, but Christians may not.
  • Diet – Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol.
  • Authority – Christian teaches you should “Honour your mother and Father” (Ten Commandments in the Bible). If they disrespect parents, they are not following their religion. The advice given to Sigala by the Buddha advocated respecting your parents wishes.
  • Christian parents would also be unhappy with their children changing religions or being atheist. Some Buddhists will worry about their children’s karma if they do not practice the religion. In Islam it is a sin to change religions.
  • Sexual relationships – Some Buddhist and Christian parents will be unhappy with pre-material sex. Remember that Jesus taught not to look at other lustfully. Buddhism teaches the 3rd precept and pre-marital sex may be seen as ‘misconduct’.
  • Traditional Roles – the Bible teaches “Women should busy themselves at home” and Eve was a “helpmate” for Adam. This means some parents will be unhappy if their children’s career choices do not fit these roles.