Just War Theory

War, Peace and Human Rights

War, Peace and Human Rights

In this unit we ask whether it is ever right to go to war. We look at one tradition that provides a justification for going to war - Just War Theory. We also consider the view that it is always wrong to engage in war - Pacifism.

This leads to a discussion about the use of violence, and we consider how some people have used non-violent methods to achieve their goals.

We also look at Human Rights, with a particular focus on those who have had their basic rights abused. This includes people locked up for their beliefs - prisoners of conscience.

Finally we look at those who have broken the law, and ask how best to respond. Why do we punish criminals, and does it work?

Key Terms:

Holy war: Some religions have claimed that wars can be holy if they are fought in the name of God.

Pacifism: Refusal to use violence or to fight in wars.

Conscientious Objector: Person who refuses, on the basis of conscience, to fight in a war. COs can serve in non-combatant roles, e.g. stretcher-bearer. CO does not have to be a pacifist, he may just object to a particular war.

Prisoner of conscience: Someone imprisoned for what they believe or who they are, not for what they have done.

Fact file

  • Total global military expenditure = approx. $1.5 million a minute.

  • WWI killed 9 million men, and seriously wounded over 21 million more.

  • 50% of victims in WWII were civilians.

  • 90% of victims in wars today are civilians.

  • Between 200,000 and 400,000 women were raped in Bangladesh during a nine-month conflict in 1971.

Causes and effects of war

Humans have a violent streak in their nature, probably because of fighting for survival for thousands of years. The main causes of war today are:

The main effects of war are:


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