Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Paradigm Shift from “Just War” to “Just Peace” at the World Council of Churches

By Diane Reynolds

Is “Just War” theory—which attempts to limit when and how a nation wages war- obsolete? At a recent meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, 1,000 members of the World Council of Churches—including Bethany Seminary professor Scot Holland—moved beyond it to embrace a vision of “Just Peace.”

Speaking at last Thursday’s Peace Forum lunch, held at ESR, Holland explained the importance of a new, more creative, way of imagining a world without war.

The shift towards peace has been long coming, Holland said. Shortly after World War II, the WCC invited historic peace churches, including Quakers, Brethren and Mennonites to Geneva, where the WCC decided that “war is contrary to the will of God.” However, at the time, churches were not yet able to work out what that statement meant in political or pragmatic terms.

Fast forwarding to the last ten years—dubbed by the WCC the “decade to overcome violence”—“Just War” theory became highly questionable, Holland said.

“Just Peace,” Holland said, is preferable because it moves us from a military metaphysics to a “poetry of peace.” Because we are used to “the bad fiction” of a master narrative of war, we equate guns with security, and worry if we don’t have strong militaries. The move away from this mindset, Holland said, is pragmatic,
because military metaphysics “simply doesn’t work.” Instead, a new story approach finds power in the human longing for a peace narrative.

Thus, the poetic or creative basis of “Just Peace” encourages us to imagine not just avoiding war but peaceful modes of being in the world. These include embracing an embodied spirituality that names the human form as a temple. If the spiritual is found only beyond the body, Holland said, anything can be done to the body.

The World Council of Churches enumerated four principles of Just Peacemaking:

o Building peace in our communities, including our spiritual communities, with an emphasis on our faith groups being “in the world, for the world.”

Embracing eco-theological approaches to making peace with the planet.

Promoting peace in the marketplace and acknowledging that economic injustice makes peace difficult.

Focusing on peace between peoples by building “the peace of the city”—promoting outer peace in the world and trusting it to lead to inner peace. This form of peace was imagined by the prophet Jeremiah, who called for the Israelites to build houses and live in them, to plant gardens and eat of them, to marry and have children.

Personally, I love the idea of working together to build a just peace on earth, rather than merely sidestepping war until it becomes “inevitable.” However, many Quakers tend to believe that inner peace is a necessary first step to outer peace. What do you think of an external “peace of the city” leading to inner harmony?
Further, what do you think of “Just Peace?” Can a new paradigm lead to a more peaceful world?

More on “Just Peace” can be found at http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/speeches/just-peace-the-dream-that-comes-true.html

Diane Reynolds is a student in Earlham School of Religion’sMaster of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog,Emerging Quaker.

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