Bishop Calls for Just Peace on Armistice Day

by Gerry Lynch last modified 12 Nov, 2014 06:18 PM

Bishop Nicholas leads reflections on a just war at Cathedral Armistice Day Event

On Armistice Day, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, led reflections on a just war in Salisbury Cathedral. Christian views on war have been shaped by dialogue between Pacifists and those who believed that a war can be just in certain circumstances. 

At the end of the talk, many of those attending said perhaps the most important lesson from the First World War is the need for a ‘just peace’.               

Bishop Nicholas said: 

“The 20th Century was defined by a series of interrelated conflicts that started with the First World War. So far, our century is being defined by the terrorism of September 11, 2001, and the responses to it. The Pope has recently warned that the many conflicts being waged around the world at present amount to ‘a piecemeal Third World War’. 

“Many Christians believe war can sometimes be just when started by a proper authority, for a just cause and as a last resort. A ‘just war’ should be proportionate, winnable, and fought by just means in which non-combatants are protected. Restraint must be shown after victory. Most people would hold the Western Allies’ involvement in the Second World War, for example, was clearly a just war. 

“Neither the Just War not the Christian Pacifist tradition holds a monopoly of truth, and they have long existed in tension more than as opposites. St Martin’s day is 11 November – Armistice Day – and it is interesting that this ancient saint is the patron of both soldiers and pacifists.                                                                                                                   

“Over the past century, there has been a convergence between Just War theory and Christian Pacifism, particularly as people confronted the fact that modern weapons, especially nuclear weapons, made it possible for the human race to destroy itself. 

“The current geopolitical situation asks hard questions with the growth of international terrorist networks, the asymmetric nature of modern warfare, and the question of whether outside powers should intervene in civil wars to save lives. This last question has once more become acute with developments in Iraq and Syria. 

“Our final thoughts focused on the need for a just peace at the end of any war. In doing this we need to pay attention to building a global outlook and making friends across the barriers of conflicts. 

“A continuing political commitment to the Development budget is going to be important and so is finding ways to reduce expenditure on the arms trade. We must make international friendships, resist turning inwards and remain global and outward looking. In large part, this is a spiritual matter.” 

Read more - Bishop Nicholas' full notes for his introductory talk for the reflections are available here.

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