On Valentine's Day next Friday thousands of people from across the UK will gather in London for an event entitled Make Love Not War. The following day even more people will take part in anti-war marches through London and in other cities across the UK.
There are strong feelings about the prospect of another military campaign against the people of Iraq, so soon after the Gulf War and sanctions which have already crippled them. While many protest that it is unfair, our Prime Minister seems confident that a new war is justified. Meanwhile Sadaam Hussein yesterday said that he stands on the side of those who believe in justice. How are we to decide what is just and fair?
Our religious and ethical traditions offer us the 'Just War' theory, a set of principles to help us judge a potential military action to be morally just or unfair. Just War thinking can help us decide where we stand on Iraq.
- The first criterion in Just War thinking is that there must be lawful authority: authority at the highest possible level. This is why the United Nations, however imperfect it may be, must play a leading role.
Second, there must be just cause. If Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, the question is, are they by themselves sufficient cause for a war, however destructive, even in the hands of someone who can't be trusted? Why change the policy of containment and deterrence which has worked up until now?
Third, every effort must have been made to resolve the dispute first by peaceful means. This suggests a clear moral obligation to go on persevering with alternatives to full-scale warfare. Has enough been done to resolve the dispute peacefully?
Fourth, a judgment has to be made that the war will not unleash more evils than are already being endured. Would this action leave the whole Middle East in flames, as some are suggesting? What can we learn from the condition Iraq is in after the bombardment it has suffered over the past decade?
Fifth, and finally, there must be a reasonable chance of success. But if we are to evaluate success then the war aims must be crystal clear. Are they? Do we really know what this war is meant to be for?
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." writes Paul to the Christians in Rome.
Deciding what is fair and just requires sincerity - serious thought, balancing opinions on all sides. In cases like this it's not easy.
Which is why, though you may guess where I stand on the issue, I'd prefer to leave you to make your own informed opinions rather than impose my views.
It's also why, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with those in government who have to make the decisions, if you are a campaigning person you should write to them, if you are a praying person you should pray for them, they need all the help, guidance, wisdom you can give them at this time.
More about 14/15 February events from the Stop the War Coalition