Monday, 25 April 2016

‘Just War’ theory on the way out?

Is the ‘Just War’ theory on the way out? 
Is this a turning point in history? 

Recently Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church was given a clear message by Catholic peace leaders who came to a Rome Conference from around the world  that ‘We believe there is no “just war”.’

My ancestors the Doukhobors essentially said the same thing in 1895 when they burnt their guns in Tsarist Russia. Nonkilling is the way of a civilized world.

Author and American Catholic priest nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Ft. John Dear, in PeaceVoice, wrote recently:
For its first three centuries, Christianity required the practice of active nonviolence as taught by Jesus. The early Christians refused to serve the Roman Empire or kill in its wars, and so they were routinely arrested and killed. All that changed in the year 313 when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. He baptized his troops and established Christianity as the official religion of the Empire. Christians could now serve in the Roman military and kill Rome’s enemies. In effect, he threw out the Sermon on the Mount and the commandment to love one’s enemies, and turned to the pagan Cicero to justify Christian violence, sowing the seeds for the so-called “Just War theory.” Over time, justified warfare became the norm, Christians everywhere waged war and everyone forgot that Jesus was nonviolent. 
For the last 1700 years, as we all know, Christians have waged war, led crusades, burned women at the stake, systematically persecuted Jews and Muslims, kept millions of people as slaves, ran concentration camps, blessed conquest, prayed for successful bombing raids, and built and used nuclear weapons. Throughout Catholic history, Jesus’ teachings of nonviolence were rarely discussed, much less implemented. 
Until last week, [when] 80 of us from 25 nations were invited to the Vatican last week for the first ever conference to discuss formally abandoning the so-called “just war” theory and formally returning the Church to the nonviolence of Jesus. This was the first ever gathering of its kind in history!
Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire was joyous in joining 80 people from around the world meeting in Rome from April 11th to the 14th at the ‘Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence’:
I hope that Pope Francis will call upon Catholics not to join the military and remind them that killing cannot be with Christ. I believe the misguided age of “blessing wars, militarism and killing” must end. The responsibility lies with Pope Francis and all religious/spiritual leaders to be true shepherds of peace, nonviolence and nonkilling, to help us follow the command of Jesus to love our enemies and not kill each other.

I also hope that Pope Francis will unambiguously proclaim that violence is always wrong that violence is not the way of Jesus, that Catholics cannot take up arms to kill people, and that we are called to become a true peace church.
Recall that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, they are the sons and daughters of God. You have heard it said, thou shalt not kill. I say unto you, do not even get angry. Be reconciled. You have heard it said, an eye for eye, but I say to you, offer no violent resistance to one who does evil....Love your enemies.'  Here is no just war theory, no exceptions. We follow the path of nonkilling.

As a peace activist, Tolstoyan and Doukhobor, I hope that all concerned peoples everywhere will urge their leaders to teach the gospel of nonviolence and love and start a path toward a new world of peace. The way to peace is peace, not war!

  1. Ft. John Dear. ‘The Church’s Turn Toward Nonviolence’. Peace Voice, April 20, 2016. 
  2. Erica Chenoweth, Peace Force. ‘Did the Vatican Just Throw Out Its Just War Doctrine?’ Political Violence at a Glance, April 19, 2016. 
  3. Mairead Maguire. ‘The Rome Conference on Nonviolence: A Turning Point in History’. Common Dreams, April 20, 2016. 
  4. McElwee, Joshua J.  'Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence,' National Catholic Reporter, April 14, 2016. 
  5. Koozma J. Tarasoff. ‘Historic 1895 Burning of Guns: descriptions, selections and translations’. Updated May 1, 2015. 
  6. Koozma J. Tarasoff. ‘Tolstoy and the Doukhobors’. Presented at the First Global Leadership Forum on Nonkilling, Hawaii, November 1-4, 2007. 
  7. Books about ‘Just War’


In September 2017, at the Telos-Moscow conference, Russian and Western scholars and journalists  explored 'the political questions separating Russia and the West and thus to seek ways of getting beyond the present dead end.' 

University of Ottawa professor Paul Robinson presented his paper 'Institutions, Culture, and Legitimacy: what comes first?’ in which he framed the conversation by explaining 'that the two nations have entirely different interpretations of what the rules are and what they’re meant to achieve.'

'Russian realism' vs. 'Western liberalism'. ...' two separate orders '
  • 'For Russia, rules are symmetrical. They apply in the same way to all sides in a conflict.' 
  • 'For the United States, the application of rules is asymmetrical, determined by whether a given side is deemed just or unjust.'
'This dichotomy stems from the "just war theory" ...whoever is at fault (or more at fault) for starting a given conflict, the rules of actually waging it must be the same for every participant.' ... .who gets to define what is just? And what does justice mean? .. the United States and Russia are both rational, but, ... (in) ... differing nationalities. Is there some way to bridge the difference?'

The participants explored morality, human rights, political order, humanity, constant warfare, borders, trust, demonizing Russia, Cold War and Culture War liberals, globalization, conversation for common good, hope, ...

— Grenier, Paul. "Russia, America, and the Courage to Converse," The American Conservative, January-February issue, January 15, 2018. 


  1. I believe if Pope Francis can convince Catholics not to join the military, it would be a great example for other religious and non religious groups to preach the same.

    The military industrial complex cannot keep making obscene amounts of money if people don't show up to fight.

    We then have to find ways to bury and recycle the weapons that still exist, including nuclear.

    Peace and love,


    1. I share your comments. Let's hope that Pope Francis and others join the wisdom that will put an end to war.

  2. Rajagopal PV. India25 April 2016 at 17:51

    Dear Mr. Koozma,
    This is an important initiative from the side of the Pope. I am taking up this matter with religious leders of India. Hope you are well and probably planning a trip to India in the near future.

  3. Lawrence Klippenstein, Winnipeg, Manitoba25 April 2016 at 17:55

    It would be significant if a papal word could bring about that much change. One just is not sure for exactly how many people, especially those of influence the Pope can make far reaching affirmations of that kind. One might even stop putting the theory in words and continue to function as if it remains in effect. Perhaps the bottom line remains as our Lord said, There will always be wars and rumours of wars, much as people labour to bring a no war world into existence., and His call for us to be people of peace in every respect remains the bottom line for peacemakers in the world.

  4. Mich Ozeroff, Langham, Saskatchewan25 April 2016 at 19:06

    Thanks for including me in your news items, I too get on a regular basis the above noted items and today read the news about the catholic recent conference and their suggested change in direction regarding war. Gives a person hope that the message our ancesters worked and suffered for is still not forgotten. After my life with the Sask. Wheat Pool I got to know many Catholics and long ago realized that if this enornous amount would accept Christ's teachings on peace, there would be a dramatic change in the way the world lived, four billion people would help change some of the rest in the world, we can certainly dream.

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  5. I would like to hear more about what you have been researching on Just War!

    1. Dorothy Day of The Catholic Worker condemned all modern war in the light of the technology of mass destruction. She also called for a fundamental transformation of the world economic and social order. Our time demands nothing less than the hope that all people of conscience, including the church, must speak up loud and clear. Our education in high schools, universities and seminaries must include war and peace studies. Blessed are the peacemakers who seek a nonkilling society, for they certainly should be called children of God. Let's dump the Just War theory into the dustbin of history and get on with the task of building a world without wars.