Making peace, not profit from war

Tim Costello challenges Australia’s desire to be an arms trader

The Federal Government’s plan to turn Australia into an arms trading powerhouse raises some troubling ethical questions.

How can we profit from bloodshed, for the sake of creating a few jobs, when more people are being displaced by war and persecution than ever before? Why would we pursue this trade in weapons when war has clearly outlived its usefulness?

Putting an end to global conflict is still a distant dream.

At the start of World War I, when patriotism was at its peak, the slogan “the war to end all wars” was a common catchphrase.

British leader David Lloyd George sensed the bitter irony in the statement. “This war, like the next war,” he cynically remarked, “is another war to end all war.” And the next war. And the ones after that. A century after World War I, which left 20 million dead, putting an end to global conflict is still a distant dream.

The early Christians did not believe in war. Tertullian, a third-century Christian scholar, echoed the common view: “When Christ disarmed Peter in the garden (after he cut off the ear of a Roman soldier sent to arrest Jesus), he disarmed all Christians.”

Jesus’s call for his followers to be peacemakers was not optional

Origen, a theologian of the same period, said Christians could no longer “take up sword against nation, nor do we learn war any more, for we have become the children of peace.”

Jesus’s call for his followers to be peacemakers was not optional, he said. Many early Christians were pacifists who set themselves apart from the world. But gradually, other Christians developed a more flexible attitude towards the world and politics.

In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo developed what became known as the “Just War” theory. It supposed that war was OK under strict guidelines – that it be a last resort; that the cause is just; that the war is waged with the right intention (not to exact vengeance or confiscate territory); that war is declared by the proper authority and with a reasonable hope of success. The problem with the concept of just war is always the adjective.

Nearly all wars are due to the desperate grasping of an ideology, a fight for resources or for power. Can we ever hope for world peace?

Jesus was a master of non-violent resistance. He didn’t run away from oppression. He stood in its way and was eventually killed for it. When threatened, rather than fighting back he told his followers to put down their swords. We should all do the same.

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