Pope Francis Endorses Force Against ISIS

Pope Francis Endorses Force Against ISIS

Yesterday Pope Francis, usually a man of peace in the good tradition of recent popes, endorsed the use of military force against the ISIS insurgence in northern Iraq, citing its treatment of religious minorities as justification. This raises the thorny issue of Christianity and war, two concepts that do not sit easily together. If you examine the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:39-44) you could conclude that Christians should be pacifists, but remember too that he got violent with the money changers in the temple (Matthew 12:12). Then there is the advice of Paul in Romans 13:3-4 some 20 years later where he says the government carries the sword to punish evil.

Most early Christians were pacifists, and died in large numbers at the hands of the brutal Roman state because of it. Yet we see the most militaristic state in the world today is America, once strongly Christian. So what position should a Christian take? Is war always evil? Can going to war be less evil than not going to war? Should we have fought Hitler? Would you join the army if your country was invaded? I believe this is issue is a good example of the need for individual pacificsm, with the state to use force as an absolute last resort.

In the Middle Ages the theologian Thomas Aquinas proposed some great reasons and controls over the use of war. He was a brilliant thinker and I tend to agree with his wisdom. They here is basically what he said about war:

1. It must have a Just Cause

  1. It must be in self-defence
  2. It must be in response to violation of political and/or territorial rights
  3. It can be to assist a country suffering from number two

2. It must have the right Intention

  1. Its purpose must promote good and avoid doing evil
  2. It must only right the injustice caused by an aggressor

3.  It must be prosecuted by the proper Authority

4. The call to war must only be made by proper authorities after due discussion

5. The declaration of war is made after all other avenues of diplomacy are over

6. The prospect of success is high

7. The expected good outweighs any damaged caused

I think Thomas got it about right. Which makes the war on terror executed by western countries in recent years look a little dubious. Did Pope Francis got it right? I will leave that conclusion to you.

Just for the record I have listed below all the major wars of the 20th century and the deaths they have caused. It is a very sad list. Most are ethnic, politically ideological or a power grab. It makes a mockery of the claim by non-Christians that religion is the cause of most wars:

War Deaths from 1910 to 2003: 160,000,000.  (All wars causing less than 200,000 deaths have been removed)

1910-20: Mexican revolution (250,000)
1911: Chinese Revolution (2.4 million)
1915: the Ottoman empire slaughters Armenians (1.2 million)
1915-20: the Ottoman empire slaughters 500,000 Assyrians
1916-23: the Ottoman empire slaughters 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks
1914-18: World War I (20 million)
1917-21: Soviet revolution (5 million)
1928-37: Chinese civil war (2 million)
1931: Japanese Manchurian War (1.1 million)
1932-33: Soviet Union vs Ukraine (10 million)
1936-37: Stalin’s purges (13 million)
1936-39: Spanish civil war (600,000)
1937-45: Japanese invasion of China (500,000)
1939-45: World War II (55 million) including Holocaust & China
1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million)
1946-54: France-Vietnam war (600,000)
1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million)
1948-1958: Colombian civil war (250,000)

1949-50: Mainland China in Tibet (1,200,000)
1950-53: Korean war (3 million)
1954-62: French-Algerian war (368,000)
1958-61: Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” (38 million)
1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million)

1965-66: Indonesian civil war (250,000)
1966-69: Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” (11 million)
1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000)
1969-79: Idi Amin, Uganda (300,000)
1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000)
1972: Burundi’s civil war (300,000)
1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000)
1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million)
1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million)
1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000)
1976-93: Mozambique’s civil war (900,000)
1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000)
1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million)
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (1 million)
1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million) 1988-2001: Afghanistan civil war (400,000)
1988-2004: Somalia’s civil war (550,000)
1991-97: Congo’s civil war (800,000)
1991-2000: Sierra Leone’s civil war (200,000)
1992-96: Yugoslavian wars (260,000)
1994: Rwanda’s civil war (900,000)
1998-: Congo/Zaire’s war – Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
2003-09: Sudan JEM/Darfur (300,000)


God bless


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