Appeal to His Holiness Pope Francis to Replace Just War Theory with Theology of Peace, Nonkilling, and Nonviolence

by Mairead Corrigan-McGuire

Presentation to Nobel Summit, Rome, Italy. 12th December 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

by Mairead Corrigan-McGuire

Presentation to Nobel Summit, Rome, Italy. 12th December 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is particularly appropriate that we are gathered here around International Human Rights Day and our theme is Peace and Living It.  I believe that Peace is a Human Right for everyone, and its presence is necessary in order to protect and sustain all the other rights enshrined in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  I am sure we can agree that although we have a Universal Declaration, we have a long way to go to ensure that our Governments implement and uphold all these rights. In spite of this I am full of hope because I believe that we, the human family, are at a turning point in history.  There is a new growing consciousness a fresh way of thinking and living, with many taking care of each other and of nature and re-acknowledging that the true spirit of humanity is to love and be loved. This evolutionary consciousness will be recorded in future history as the period when humanity chose to become the living embodiment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guided in their actions by nonviolence, truth, love, and the choice not to kill.

However change is happening so quickly around us today that some are confused and uncertain as to how they should respond to the issues of aggression and injustice.  Those who are caught in the midst of increasing violence and chaos can feel powerless and without control. Fearology, despair, and hopelessness, are fed by a daily diet of scenes on television, or actual lived reality, of human suffering resulting from violence, poverty and war. More than anything people globally need to be given hope, they need to know others care and will help to both encourage and empower them in abandoning fear and in taking up their local and global responsibility to work for peace and reconciliation.

This year we remember the start of the First World War in l9l4 which commenced a century of two global wars, a Cold War, and a period through which we have witnessed, at great cost, the inexcusable expansion of deadly and destructive technologies and this arms race for military superiority is led by the USA  today.  The technological evolution is bringing closer the day of automated war.  The US Department of Defence said a new era of automated war will be within 15 years.  By then they believe war could be fought entirely using killer Robatic systems armed with advanced weapons.  The Dept. of Defence report CNAS ‘Center for a new American Security – preparing for war in a Robatic Age’ sets out the Pentagons vision of future warfare and their Skynet programme which would automate wars.  The advancement of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and such projects as ‘Synthetic Genetically Laser-armed Prosthetic People’,  takes war to a whole new level,  and that is why we need to abolish militarism before it is too late.  War continues unabated up to the present day in spite of it being a negation and deprivation of all human rights, for life, liberty and property, and without any regard to the millions of citizens worldwide who have called upon their Governments to abolish militarism and war and solve their problems without killing human beings and destroying the countries and environments within which they reside.

The growing Peace Movement in the world today, of which we are all a part,   can take hope from the peace vision of Alfred Nobel and  Bertha Von Suttner who wrote ‘Lay Down your Arms’, and was the  first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Their vision of a disarmed demilitarized world was articulated very well by Nobel himself when he left his Nobel peace prize to those champions of peace who would work for the abolition of armies and fraternity amongst the nations. Nobel believed that the affairs of humans should be ruled by the force of law and not the law of force.   Many people in Nobel’s time supported the Peace Movement which did not limit itself to civilizing and slowing down militarism, but demanded its total abolition.

To help us in this Global responsibility to save humanity from militarism and war, it will be necessary that we who share a common belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of peoples join together in the spirit of Principal 13 of the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Charter for a World Without Violence, which calls “upon all to work together towards a just, killing-free world in which everyone has the right not to be killed and responsibility not to kill others’.

I believe today, if we want peace then we must be no less visionary or courageous than Nobel and Bertha. We must not be satisfied with improvements and reforms, but rather the total abolition of armies, nuclear weapons and war. Military power must be replaced with law and International relations and the use of traditional diplomacy rather than coercive diplomacy. We must work to rid the world of its enslavement to militarism thus freeing some of our best scientific minds and vast funds to the better service of humanity in dealing with the many threats to human security such as disease, climate change, competition over resources, and the marginalization experienced by most of the world’s population.    

Our call is made all the more urgent when we see today that the decades old legacy of despair and suffering spread by western militarism in the Middle East and beyond has itself served as the breeding ground for conflict and radicalisation and has thus assisted in creating a self-perpetuating mechanism which feeds and sustains the military/industrial/media complex. To combat growing extremist forces in the Middle East, it is necessary to understand the cause. It cannot be solved by the so-called ‘war on terror’ which itself has caused death and suffering and only feeds Islamophobia. Rather we must address the root causes, social, economic and political which have led to the rise of violent extremism and likewise acknowledge the way in which this extremism has for decades actually been instrumentalized to serve the geo-political ambitions of profligate princes and puerile politicians both East and West. 

Sadly The European Union and many other countries are being drawn into situations where they become complicit in breaking international law through the perpetual wars of the US/UK/NATO. The list of Muslim countries which the Coalition of the willing has bombed or occupied since l980 has included many of the countries I have visited such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bosnia and Syria,  with Syria becoming at least the 14th country in the Islamic word that US/NATO forces have either  invaded, occupied or bombed.  In all of these countries I have witnessed needless suffering, death and destruction, and in all of these situations the problems could have been solved through dialogue and negotiation.  I hope that in time the US/UK/NATO forces who caused such suffering will want to say ‘sorry’ for the death and destruction their foreign policies have caused to so many people.

Here, in Rome, conscious that we are meeting in one of the most important Christian centres in the World, I would like to address a message to HH the Pope.   I thank Pope Francis for his love and work for the poor, his opposition to the death penalty, the crime of torture, and his recent inter faith initiative to end modern slavery.

However, I would like to make a special appeal to His Holiness Pope Francis to replace the ‘Just War’ Theory with a Theology of Peace, Nonkilling and Nonviolence. Our Christian roots are steeped in Jesus’s nonviolence and in the words of the late US Theologian Fr. John L. McKenzie, ‘you cannot read the scriptures and not know that Jesus was totally nonviolent’ and that the ‘just war theory is a phony piece of morality’.   I believe there is a self-delusion at the heart of humanity which says we have a right to kill each other,  the longstanding defect in our Christian just war theology feeds this myth of justified violence, militarism and war.  How much the world needs a clear unambiguous message from Pope Francis, and all our World’s Spiritual Leaders, that violence is not the way, violence is never justified, violence is always wrong, and there are many ways of peaceful resistance to injustice as His Holiness pointed to with his call for a justice without revenge. 

Western militarist geopolitics has proved a total failure, the destruction of countries and populations must end and we must assert that it is time to try another path. Genuine all inclusive, unconditional dialogue, including talking to Islamic state fighters, Taliban, etc., and all others using force of arms is the only way forward.  As His Holiness has said in respect of the possibility of dialogue with such groups “Never close the door. It's difficult, you could say almost impossible, but the door is always open."

To help build such a peaceful, demilitarized world in which dialogue and diplomacy can replace violence the United Nations should actively take up its mandate to save the world from the scourge of war by rejecting militarism, abolishing NATO and upholding International Laws and Human Rights. In seeking the UN to fulfil its mandate let us not forget to remind that body that a key to peace in the Middle East is an ending of the Israel military occupation of Palestine. This injustice and the failure of the United Nations to fully assert intentional law in this regard sits at the root of practically ever conflict and calamity the region has endured for the last 67 years. I call for the full restoration of Palestinian Rights, an end to America’s obstruction of justice for Palestine within the United Nations and an end to that country’s funding of the Israeli occupation.

I hope that from the Nobel Peace Laureates and out of Rome; will come a bold and unambiguous rejection of all violence and a call for Peace, Justice, and a Universal abolition of nuclear weapons, militarism and war.

Mrs. Corrigan-McGuire’s book ‘The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland’ has been published in Urdu and is now used in some Pakistani Universities on Peace Studies. ‘The Vision of Peace’ (edited by John Dear) is available from www.wipfandstock.com

Published with the author’s permission.

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