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Thought for the Week – 28th January 2024

Just Wars, Far and Near

The war in Ukraine will soon enter its 3rd year and is currently in a stale-mate that resembles the First World War. In Gaza, in addition to 1200 or so Israeli civilians killed in the initial attack, we now have the deaths of around 25.000 Palestinians and over 250 Israeli soldiers; as far as I can tell, the military operation has rescued only a very small number of the hostages.

Traditionally the church has judged conflicts according to the criteria of the “just war”. There are some Christians who regard this phrase as a contradiction in terms and oppose any military action. I disagree, but then I have to make a whole series of moral judgements; is the action proportionate? Will it succeed? Overall, will it ultimately do more good than harm. For what it is worth, I think that the conflict in Gaza now does not meet those criteria. However, my views on that or any other international conflict will have very little influence over what actually happens and I may be wrong. But perhaps it is more useful to think of the ideas of a just war when it comes to our own personal wars; those situations where we are in conflict with others. The same set of judgements need to be made; what will be the consequences if we escalate the dispute? Is the battle worth fighting or is it better to back down? As in the international sphere,  these are not always easy to answer. However, if we do think through our own conflicts and their consequences as rationally as we can, our decisions here will influence situations we can change.

Rev David Poyner