Live from God's peace - ensure just peace
A memorandum of the EKD Council, 2007
2.5 Think in terms of just peace
- For Christian ethics, peace and justice are indissolubly connected. At least since the Ecumenical Assembly of Churches, which took place in the GDR in 1988, the "just peace" has been the guiding perspective of a Christian ethic of peace. The basic orientation towards the “just peace” developed in the so-called “conciliar process” for peace, justice and the integrity of creation corrected the understanding of peace policy as disarmament-oriented, which was often prevalent during the east-west conflict and under the conditions of the nuclear deterrent system in the northern hemisphere Preventing war by combining on the one hand the demand of the South for global equity and on the other hand the protection of human rights with the task of peace. The word of the Catholic German bishops from 2000 is programmatically under the title "Just Peace" and profiles it as a church model. The EKD has also taken up this term in the Orientation Points for Peace Ethics and Peace Policy "Steps on the Path to Peace" from 1994 and in the interim report "Peace Ethics in Probation" from 2001, but has not yet systematically developed it.
2.5.1 The promise of peace and justice
- The unity of peace and justice is the subject of divine promise in the biblical tradition. The Psalms speak in exuberant terms that "righteousness and peace kiss" (Ps 85:11). Messianic rule is characterized by the fact that under it “the mountains bring peace and the hills righteousness”, justice is created for the poor and the poor are helped (Ps 72: 3; cf. Isa 9: 1ff.). Christianity owes the vision of a peace-making, conflict-mediating instruction from God to prophetic tradition, which makes the keeping of weapons superfluous and opens up new ways of coexistence among peoples (Isa 2: 2–4; Mi 4: 1–5). Isa 32:17 says: "The fruit of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be rest and security forever." And in the New Testament, "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" clearly define the kingdom of God (Rom. 14, 17). However, the biblical hope for a perfection of the world in justice and peace is not based on an optimism for progress based on the philosophy of history. Especially after the end of the East-West conflict, new civil wars and international terrorism refuted the diagnosis of an "end of history" brought about internally by the victory of democracy and freedom. According to the biblical testimony, the perfection of the world in righteousness and peace is a mark of the kingdom of God, not a political order. To what extent can a “just peace” nevertheless become an ethical model for political action from this perspective?
- For the Christian faith, the ethos of peacemakers (Mt 5: 9) is based on the reconciliation of people with him and one another, granted by God; it has its goal in the coming kingdom of God. The origin and completion of peace are therefore unavailable to human activity, but by no means insignificant. Rather, the significance of the unity of peace and justice as the content of divine promise for human peace practice lies in the fact that it fundamentally reorientates the current understanding of peace: Peace in the sense of the biblical tradition denotes a comprehensive order of well-being, an intact relationship between people and one another towards community, towards oneself, towards the world around us and towards God, who precedes all human action and is not first brought about by him. The biblical talk of peace is not limited to distancing itself from armed violence, even if this is one of its consequences. The understanding of peace, fixed on the opposition to war, was linked to the maxim for centuries si vis pacem para bellum ("If you want peace, prepare for war"). It originally corresponds to a concept of peace as a centralized system of rule that guarantees security within its borders. On the path of security understood in this way, however, the promised lasting peace cannot be achieved. Since it is always more than the absence or termination of war, war can never be a sufficient means to peace. Thinking in terms of just peace therefore means that the para-bellum-Maxime must be replaced by the principle si vis pacem para pacem ("If you want peace, prepare peace").
- The biblical understanding of peace, through its indissoluble reference to justice, contains a point of view for differentiating between "true" and "lazy" peace, which was already asserted by the prophets of the Old Testament (Jer 6: 13f.). Following Isa 32:17, true peace is traditionally seen as the "work of righteousness" (opus iustitiae pax) has been designated. However, in the biblical context "justice" is not to be understood as an available means of establishing peace. Justice and peace are not simply related to one another as a means-end. In Jam 3,18 it says more precisely: "But the fruit of righteousness will be sown in peace for those who make peace." Peace as the "fruit" or "work" of righteousness is not the external result of an action independent of it, rather it can for its part, peacemaking just action only takes place in peace and emerges from it. In a familiar formulation: the journey is the goal - more precisely: the means to peace must already be qualified by the end, the methods must be appropriate to the goal.
- Peace and justice mutually interpret each other because in the biblical writings justice is more than an abstract norm or a mere ought. In the Old Testament, righteousness in the relationship between people describes loyalty to the community in which the creatures conform to the covenant that God has made with them in his loyalty to the community. Justice here does not mean a standpoint of mere neutrality and impartiality. It is the category of a social practice of solidarity that - according to the saving power of God - primarily addresses the weak and disadvantaged. The "better righteousness" spoken of in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:20) is ultimately fulfilled in the commandment to love one's neighbor, even to love one's enemy; it aims at a social practice of increasing inclusion and universal recognition. It enables everyone to respect the same personal dignity regardless of their deeds (and misdeeds) and at the same time takes into account the relevant differences between individuals in their living conditions and expressions. Justice comes into view here as a virtue, as a personal quality and attitude, which, however, does not consist of itself, but owes itself to a divine promise: as righteousness that is not self-righteous (Rom. 3:28). Such righteousness that is not self-righteous is careful to take into account the legitimate claims and interests of the other.
2.5.2 Dimensions of just peace
- The practice of just peace, which can be regarded as a characteristic of the worldwide community of Christians, is not shared by all people in its spiritual depth and cannot replace a practical policy of peace. However, it converges with a multidimensional concept of peace, which can be brought into the political peace task as a socio-ethical model:
- Just peace serves to maintain and develop human existence; it must therefore always and in each of its dimensions build on respect for the same human dignity. According to the Christian understanding, human dignity consists in the determination of the human being to be in the image of God, i.e. to a community with God through which the human being is distinguished at the same time as a representative of God and as a subject capable of responsibility. Even those who justify human dignity in other ways can agree with the conclusion that a human life in dignity requires protection from humiliation, i.e. the social conditions of self-respect, as a minimum. Respect for human dignity therefore requires, in addition to respecting the right to life, in any case the protection of every person from arbitrary unequal treatment and discrimination, respect for their subject position, the guarantee of the material and social subsistence level as well as enabling the development of self-determined forms of life, which always include opportunities for Participation in social life should open up.
- The biblical view supports a procedural concept of peace. Peace is not a state of affairs (neither the mere absence of war nor the cessation of all conflicts), but a social process of decreasing violence and increasing justice - the latter now understood as political and social justice, i.e. as a normative principle of social institutions. Peacebuilding processes are characterized by the fact that they affect the Avoidance of the use of force, the promotion of freedom and cultural diversity as well as the Reduction of hardship are directed. Peace is not limited to the absence of violence, but rather aims to live together in justice. In this sense, a just peace denotes the goal perspective of political ethics. On the way to this goal, steps that serve peace are just as important as those that create justice. However, it is inappropriate when demands for peace and justice block one another. Where this is the case, it must be sought how such blockades can be overcome through unilateral accommodation and other confidence-building measures, so that steps on the path of peace and steps on the path of justice mutually enable, encourage and promote one another.
- A basic element of just peace is avoidance of and Protection from violence. Domestically, the deprivatisation of violence through the state monopoly on the use of force is an essential civilizational achievement of the modern age. Where the state monopoly on the use of force collapses and the arming of non-state actors is given a chance, the new civil wars have seen a relapse into a pre-state state. This quasi-archaic state of affairs has not yet been overcome in political reality despite the principle prohibition of force in the UN Charter (Article 2, No. 4).
- Just peace includes not only actual survival, but a certain quality of human life, a life in dignity; he therefore requires that Promoting freedom. The Christian understanding of man favors a positive understanding of freedom to communicate and cooperate. Peace in freedom is the chance to lead a coexistence protected against violence and oppression, in which people can make joint use of their possibilities and abilities by virtue of their own decision. If it did not go hand in hand with the protection of freedom, the domestic monopoly of violence would also remain an expression of arbitrary superiority and mere rule of the fittest. Domestically, democratic constitutional states have succeeded in legally curbing the monopoly of force, controlling it through the separation of powers, limiting it through the protection of fundamental freedoms and opening it up to democratic participation. By analogy, the task at the intergovernmental level is to replace the law of the strong with the strength of the law. An observance of the rule of law in international relations analogous to the rule of law of the individual state must include the guarantee of human rights.
- In human history, hardship has always been a triggering factor in violent conflicts. The competition for scarce resources is one of the most important causes of armed conflicts. The Reduction of hardship requires two things: on the one hand, it presupposes the conservation of the natural resources necessary for human life; on the other hand, injustices in the distribution of material goods and access to them must be reduced. Just as internal peace is endangered in a society without a policy of active social equilibrium, world peace also depends on the correction of socio-economic asymmetries.
- Just peace based on the same personal dignity of all people is without them Recognition of cultural diversity not sustainable. This is particularly true in a world in which, through diverse transnational relationships and media, knowledge of the living conditions of each other grows and is of immediate importance for coexistence: Recognition makes it possible to develop a stable, calm self-esteem. When caring for self is combined with caring for the lives of others, identity-based conflicts can be resolved constructively. In today's conditions of social and cultural plurality, efforts to achieve coexistence on an equal footing are indispensable. This requires the development of mutually recognized rules of dialogue and a constructive culture of conflict.