War and Just War Theory

Just War theory is a largely Christian theory, which provides guidance to help decide whether a war is right or just. It does not justify wars but it shows that war in some circumstances is morally allowed, but generally encourages other ways of resolving conflicts.

Task: Write down the criteria of a just war given below.

  • There is a reasonable chance of success
  • Its aim is to bring peace
  • It is used only after other non-violent methods have failed
  • No innocent civilians will be killed
  • The cause of war is just (e.g in defence or against injustice)
  • The methods are fair

At times in the Bible, God tells the Jewish people to attack those who oppose them.

23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Exodus 21:23-25

However other Christian teachings promote peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Some Christians believe that war can never be justified and that violence should never be used.

Task: Explain two religious beliefs about war. Refer to sacred writings or another source of religious belief and teaching in your answer. (5)

Muslim teachings on war

Muslims believe in just war also – when a war is fought for the right reasons, in the right way. Islam is a religion which supports peace and non violence, but there are some passages in the Qur’an which suggest war is permitted in some circumstances.

Task: Read the quotes below and explain if each one supports or is opposed to violence and why.

O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.

Surah 2:208

The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.

Surah 49:10

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.

Surah 2:190

And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?”

Surah 4:75

A war is considered just in Islam if:

  • It has the support of the community and not just one person
  • It is an act of defence
  • It does not aim to win new land or power
  • It is not an act to convert people to Islam
  • It is a last resort
  • It will not threaten innocent lives
  • It will not harm the environment
  • It is declared by a religious leader

Task: Do you agree or disagree with these conditions? Why/why not?

Some Muslims believe that war is necessary in some circumstances, however there are Muslims who disagree and believe that war should never be allowed. Shi’a Muslims believe that jihad is one of the Ten Obligatory Acts and therefore Shi’a Muslims must protect the innocent and oppressed when necessary.

Task: Give two conditions of Just War theory. (2)

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