Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for Ethics of Peace and War

Tasneem Jamal Defence & Human Security

Glen H. Stassen

Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for Ethics of Peace and War (Pilgrim Press: 1998/2004/2008)
Interfaith Just Peacemaking (Palgrave Macmillan: 2012)

See www.justpeacemaking.org and www.fuller.edu/sot/faculty/stassen

Pacifism and just war debate whether to participate in war. It’s an important debate. But it’s insufficient. The following have all said we need a new paradigm with preemptive practices of peacemaking, so we can also focus on the practices that prevent war:
-Methodists, In Defense of Creation;
-Presbyterians, Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling;
-United Church of Christ, The Just Peace Church;
-U.S. Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace;
-The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (1996) “For Peace in God’s World”
-The Christian Reformed Church of North America (2006) “War & Peace.”


1. Support nonviolent direct action. Matthew 5:38-42
Nonviolent Direct Action is spreading widely, ending dictatorship in the Philippines, ending rule by the Shah in Iran, bringing about nonviolent revolutions in Poland, East Germany, Central Europe, and the Arab Spring, transforming injustice into democratic change in human rights movements in Guatemala, Argentina, and elsewhere in Latin America, in South Africa, working more effectively than violence for Palestine…. Governments and people have the obligation to make room for and to support nonviolent direct action.
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat. Matthew 5:38-42
Independent initiatives: 1) are independent of the slow process of negotiation; 2) decrease threat perception and distrust but do not leave the initiator weak; 3) are verifiable actions; 4) and carried out at the announced time regardless of the other side’s bluster; 5) have their purpose clearly announced—to shift toward de-escalation and to invite reciprocation; 6) come in a series; initiatives should continue in order to keep inviting reciprocation. This new practice has been crucial in several recent breakthroughs.

3. Use cooperative conflict resolution. Matthew 5:21-26
1) Active partnership in developing solutions, not merely passive cooperation.
2) Adversaries listen to each other and experience each other’s perspectives, including culture, spirituality, story, history and emotion.
3) Seek long-term solutions that help prevent future conflict.
4) Seek justice as a core component for sustainable peace.

4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness. Matthew 6:12 & 7:1-5
Until recently, it was widely agreed that nations would not express regret, acknowledge responsibility, or give forgiveness. But Germany since World War II, Japan and Korea, Clinton in Africa, the U.S. finally toward Japanese-Americans during World War II, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and other actions described by Shriver, An Ethic for Enemies and Wink, When Powers Fall, show a new practice is emerging that can heal longstanding bitterness.


5. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty. Matthew 6:19-33
Extensive empirical evidence shows that the spreading of democracy and respect for human rights, including religious liberty, is widening the zones of peace. Democracies fought no wars against one another during the entire twentieth century. They had fewer civil wars. And they generally devoted lower shares of their national products to military expenditures, which decreases threats to other countries. Just peacemaking advocates spreading democracy by pushing for human rights, which is how it in fact has spread in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia; and not by making war, which causes bitterness and a tradition of violence that plagues the nation for a long future.

6. Foster just and sustainable economic development. Matthew 6:19-33
Sustainable development occurs where the needs of today are met without threatening the needs of tomorrow–where those who lack adequate material and economic resources gain access, and those who have learn to control resource use and prevent future exhaustion.
A key to economic development in East Asian countries, especially Korea and Taiwan, has been land reform that made wealth more equitable and thus created a sizable local market for developing firms. By contrast, most of Latin America lacks real land reform and equality, and therefore local consumers cannot afford to buy products produced by local industries. Compare the growing economic inequality in the U.S. since 1980 and the resulting Great Recession.


7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system. Matthew 5:43-48
Four globalizing trends make it possible now to form and sustain international networks that decrease war: the decline in the utility of war; the priority of trade and the economy over war; the strength of international exchanges, communications, transactions, and networks; and the gradual ascendancy of liberal representative democracy and a mixture of welfare-state and laissez-faire market economy. We should act to strengthen these trends and the international associations that they make possible.
Ties of economic interdependence by trade and investment also decrease the incidence of war.
Engagement in international organizations like the UN and regional institutions is a clear predictive factor that they will be much less likely to engage in war. By contrast, countries that practise unilateralism more frequently become engaged in war. Political science data demonstrate this clear conclusion, and the recent history of Serbia and the United States demonstrate the point.

8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights. Matthew 5:43-48
Acting alone, states cannot solve problems of trade, debt, interest rates; of pollution, ozone depletion, acid rain, depletion of fish stocks, global warming; of migrations and refugees seeking asylum; of military security when weapons rapidly penetrate borders.
Therefore, collective action is increasingly necessary. Citizens should press their government to act in ways that strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations, of regional organizations, and of multilateral peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. They resolve conflicts, monitor, nurture, and even enforce truces. They meet human needs for food, hygiene, medicine, education, and economic interaction. Most wars now happen within states, not between states; therefore, collective action needs to include UN-approved humanitarian intervention in cases like the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Somalia, and Rwanda “when a state’s condition or behavior results in…grave and massive violations of human rights.”
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade. Matthew 26:52
A key factor in the decrease of war between nations is that weapons have become so destructive that war is not worth the price. Reducing offensive weapons and shifting toward defensive force structures strengthens that equation. Banning chemical and biological weapons, and reducing strategic (long-range) nuclear warheads from 3,500 to 1,000 each, and verifying the comprehensive test ban that makes it harder for nations to develop nuclear weapons, are key steps.
     Arms imports by developing nations in 1995 dropped to one-quarter of their peak in 1988. But the power of money invested by arms manufacturers in politicians’ campaigns is a major obstacle to reductions.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations. Jesus organized a group of disciples and started cell groups in villages.
A growing worldwide people’s movement constitutes one more historical force that makes just peacemaking theory possible. We learn peacemaking practices and press governments to employ these practices.

Each practice is recent in its widespread use, and is causing significant change. Together they exert strong influence, decreasing wars. Each is empirically happening and being effective in abolishing some wars. Each faces significant obstacles and blocking forces that are named in the chapters. We contend that just peacemaking practices are ethically obligatory for persons, groups, and governments to strengthen them and help overcome the blocking forces.
These practices mostly began after World War II, when many got to work to develop practices to prevent such disastrous wars. The number of persons killed in war per year was 3.8 million in the first half of the 20th century, and it was cut down to 0.8 million per year in the second half. These just peacemaking practices deserve our strong support.

For more information , see:
John Hogan, “War is Decreasing,” Slate Magazine, Aug. 4, 2009.
Nicholas Kristof, “Are We Getting Nicer?” New York Times, Nov. 23, 2011.

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