Big News: Some Seek Justice, Others Prefer Peace

Published: Thu 1 Nov 2001 09:21 AM
Big News with Dave Crampton
When some seek justice – but others prefer peace
I recently received a number of e-mails on the peace march held in Wellington on October 27. While they certainly didn’t tempt me to march for peace, I did question why the march was planned. As well as peace, the organisers want to see justice, not vengeance – as if justice and peace were one and the same.
You have to ask how a peace march would contribute to justice, let alone peace in an already disturbed country like Afghanistan. It may make the participants feel better but what actually changes? Nothing. So why march at all? To create awareness of something everybody is aware of anyway, or to make those already aware feel better as a result of joining a peace rally?
Vengeance and justice are not complimentary, but neither is justice and peace, sometimes – hence the US attacks. Justice has to be seen to be done. Justice also has a higher priority, and normally comes ahead of peace. Peace is often the result of justice, not the other way around as the peace marchers would have you believe.
Many people taking part in the peace march were Christians and lived with the Christian conviction that God is a God of peace. Some of the Christians, including Race Relations Conciliator Greg Fortuin, spoke at the event. Even some Greenies joined the march against the bombing and were told by Jeanette Fitzsimons that “there may be a place for armed forces in this strategy” as long as it was in conjunction with the UN.
But God is not merely a God of peace, he is also a just God, and he views justice as a means to peace. God is not anti-war, as long as it is just, but he certainly does not tolerate vengeance between humans - that’s his job.
Many people view the US attacks on Afghanistan as vengeance. If bombings were resulting solely to avenge, they would arise out of anger, with the US not caring whether they pursued justice or bombed civilians - and from the Christian viewpoint that is a sinful act from a wrong motive – just as the attacks on the US were.
However, responsive and responsible military action must be as limited as possible, with the aim of peace. The term used is a “just war”. The just war theory dates back to the 4th Century and was used by the church as a framework for the discussion of issues of war and peace, to deal with the reality of war in a fallen sinful world. St Augustine argued that a just war is a primary justification for is for the protection of innocent people. – ie the advancement of good and the avoidance of evil. Evil such as further terrorist attacks.
A just war theory does not justify war, but it does not mean anything goes, either. In fact if everybody subscribed to the just war theory there would be no wars, or acts of terrorism, as aggression would be eliminated. The theory’s first rule clearly states that only defence against aggression can be just.
One person, in an email said: “I will support the march against the bombing all the way. There are other, more effective, ways of waging war against terrorists and the Afghani people have endured enough already.” They didn’t say what these “effective ways” were.
Afghanistan, Asia’s poorest country, has endured enough. It was in trouble even before the US bombings. Some 75 per cent of Afghans do not have safe water, 90 per cent do not have adequate sanitation, and only two per cent of the population has access to health care. As a result, 25 per cent of children die before the age of five. After 20 years of war, much of the infrastructure has disappeared or lies in ruins. More than 70 per cent of the population is illiterate and this rises to nearly 90 per cent amongst women.
In the past year alone, 800,000 people have already been displaced, both within Afghanistan and to the world's two largest hosts of refugees, Pakistan and Iran.
Even before current events, 5.5 million people were already partially, or completely, dependent on food aid, which will run out next month, according to the World Food Program (WFP). Groups like Christian Aid have called for a pause in the bombings so they can safely get food to Afghans. But one of the reasons stopping the donation of food is the exorbitant taxes levied to the NGO’s by the Taliban. NGO’s want the Taliban to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
Waging war against Taliban terrorists or against those who react to their attacks won’t be addressed by peace marches – or a vengeance –type reaction, for that matter. Likewise military action is a short-term fix and a last resort. A longer-term fix is to understand the anger behind terrorism and address it, and peace marchers would do well to contemplate that if terrorism is to be adequately addressed.
Another e-mail I received this week spelt out the alternative. “To give the terrorists free range and accept that the horrors of 11 September will become normal…. that each week we will see a summary of the four or five buildings that were destroyed by planes or bombs, hear the statistics of four or five or ten thousand more dead - and have no more reaction that we do at hearing the road toll over labour weekend.”
Now is that the kind of world you want to live in? If so, keep on marching for peace. If not, seek justice. You can’t always have it both ways. You really can’t.
Oh yeah… if you attended the peace march this week, maybe you can tell me what you actually achieved.
- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at

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