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III. What Are Our Peacemaking Principles?

What principles should guide us as Unitarian Universalists (UUs) in peacemaking at all levels, from our interpersonal relationships to building just peace and enduring security at the international level?

We would like to invite you, as an individual or as a group within your congregation, to participate in developing the set of UU principles and guidelines on peacemaking that might be the end product of the four years of study and action. Please use your own experience, creativity, and imagination in helping envision a set of principles and guidelines that will help UUs be effective in creating peaceful relations at all levels.

Peacemaking does not mean simply preventing violence. It means building connections and relationships in which the viewpoints, needs, and wishes of all sides are understood and respected, so that harmony and trust are the result. How can we best do this, in our personal relationships, in our congregations, in society, and internationally?

The suggestions that you and others provide will be used in drafting a set of principles for further congregational discussion, which in turn will be used to develop a draft Statement of Conscience, to be reviewed and voted on at the 2009 General Assembly.

Following are the key questions for exploration. We invite congregations or individuals to form groups to consider these questions and develop suggestions for principles and guidelines for peacemaking at each level. Please share your actions and reflections with the Commission of Social Witness by filling out the Peacemaking Comment Form. Your comments and actions will help form the language of the Peacemaking Statement of Conscience and inform the advocacy and witness actions of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

What are our peacemaking principles in personal relationships?

For example…

  • in handling conflict 
  • in dealing with our own tendencies to criticize, distance, judge others, which are forms of psychological violence 
  • in going beyond tolerance of those who are different from us to building close and trusting relationships with them 
  • in addressing our own inner attitudes of racism, classism, etc., and sense of privilege (because I belong to group X, I deserve more than others) 
  • in going out of our 'comfort zone' to understand views that seem threatening to our own

What are our peacemaking principles in congregations?

For example…

  • in welcoming those of all races, ages, classes, etc. 
  • in handling conflicts between church members or groups 
  • in creating guidelines or structures to handle significant conflicts within the congregation 
  • in providing ongoing education in peacemaking skills and concepts 
  • in creating mechanisms for respectful dialogue on important but controversial issues, both relating to the church and to the broader society 
  • in engaging in social justice activities using effective peaceful tactics

What are our peacemaking principles within our local, regional, and national communities?

For example…

  • in supporting national, state, and local policies that contribute to a more peaceful, just world 
  • in developing an understanding of the sources of violence in American society, and an understanding of what societal changes would result in greater peace 
  • in supporting public education of all ages in conflict resolution and peacemaking skills and concepts 
  • in taking direct action to bear witness and effectively advocate against all forms of violence (gender-based, gun crimes, hate crimes, child abuse, etc.) and build a more peaceful society

What are our principles in peacemaking internationally?

For example…

  • in supporting international organizations that help maintain peace globally
  • in choosing a course of action during times of international disagreement
  • in facing a foreign power that has chosen a course of military aggression
  • in reacting to international humanitarian crisis or genocides
  • in living within a country that has chosen a course of military aggression
  • in advocating for a foreign policy that works towards just peace and enduring security
  • in addressing the global inequities that underlie so many international conflicts

To assist the creative process of developing UU peacemaking principles and guidelines, following are several statements of peacemaking principles, guidelines, and values from other sources:

Gandhi's Principles of Nonviolence

As summarized by Pace e Bene.

  1. All life is one. 
  2. We each have a piece of the truth and the un-truth. 
  3. Human beings are more than the evil they sometimes commit. 
  4. The means must be consistent with the ends. 
  5. We are called to celebrate both our differences and our fundamental unity with others. 
  6. We reaffirm our unity with others when we transform "us" versus "them" thinking and doing. 
  7. Our oneness calls us to want, and to work for, the well-being of all. 
  8. The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly free from fear.

A Covenant

From the UUA Board of Trustees, October 1999 (PDF, 12 pages).

  1. We will stay in relationship even in disagreement or conflict. 
  2. We will respect our communal meeting time, using it to advance the designated agenda.
    • I will avoid repeating established points. 
    • I will be content to simply indicate support. 
  3. We will focus on policy issues, not management. 
  4. We will work to find balance between good, inclusive process and closure on substantial matters. 
  5. We will presume good faith. 
  6. We will not re-do the work of the working groups and committees, and we will own that work. 
  7. We will be honest and direct with each other.
    • I will speak out when something is of serious concern. 
    • When I have a suspicion, concern, or question, rather than make attributions, I will ask questions. 
    • I will work on an issue directly with the person(s)with whom I have it, and I will support and encourage others to do the same. 
  8. We will practice confession and forgiveness. 
  9. We will attend to and manage the energy level and spiritual tenor of the meeting. 
  10. We will treat each other with respect,
    • I will make an effort to not interrupt and to respect an order of recognition to speak. 
    • I will actively listen to and respect the speaker who has the floor. 
    • I will minimize side comments.

UNESCO Definition of Culture of Peace

From the UNESCO brochure: "Mainstreaming the culture of peace."

As defined by the United Nations, the Culture of Peace is a set of values, attitudes, modes of behavior and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations (UN Resolutions A/RES/52/13: Culture of Peace and A/RES/53/243, Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace).

For peace and non-violence to prevail, we need to:

  1. Foster a culture of peace through education by revising the educational curricula to promote qualitative values, attitudes and behaviors of a culture of peace, including peaceful conflict-resolution, dialogue, consensus-building and active non-violence…
     
  2. Promote sustainable economic and social development by reducing economic and social inequalities, by eradicating poverty and by assuring sustainable food security, social justice, durable solutions to debt problems, empowerment of women, special measures for groups with special needs, environmental sustainability…
     
  3. Promote respect for all human rights. Human rights and a culture of peace are complementary: whenever war and violence dominate, there is no possibility to ensure human rights; at the same time, without human rights, in all their dimensions, there can be no culture of peace...
     
  4. Ensure equality between women and men through full participation of women in economic, social and political decision-making, elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women, and ensuring support and assistance to women in need…
     
  5. Foster democratic participation by educating responsible citizens; reinforcing actions to promote democratic principles and practices; establishing and strengthening national institutions and processes that promote and sustain democracy...
     
  6. Advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity by promoting a dialogue among civilizations; actions in favor of vulnerable groups, migrants, refugees and displaced persons, indigenous people and traditional groups; respect for difference and cultural diversity . . .
     
  7. Support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge by means of such actions as support for independent media in the promotion of a culture of peace; effective use of media and mass communications; measures to address the issue of violence in the media; knowledge and information sharing through new technologies...
     
  8. Promote international peace and security through action such as the promotion of general and complete disarmament; greater involvement of women in prevention and resolution of conflicts and in promoting a culture of peace in post-conflict situations; initiatives in conflict situations; encouraging confidence-building measures and efforts for negotiating peaceful settlements.

Mennonite Peace Principles

Excerpted from "A Statement on Peace, War, and Military Service, 1937"—Resolutions adopted by the Mennonite General Conference at Turner, Oregon, August 1937.

  1. Our peace principles are rooted in Christ and His Word, and in His strength alone do we hope to live a life of peace and love toward all men.
     
  2. As followers of Christ the Prince of Peace, we believe His Gospel to be a Gospel of Peace, requiring us as His disciples to be at peace with all men, to live a life of love and good will, even toward our enemies, and to renounce the use of force and violence in all forms as contrary to the spirit of our Master. These principles we derive from such Scripture teachings as: "Love your enemies"; "Do good to them that hate you"; "Resist not evil"; "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight"; "Put up thy sword into its place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"; "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves"; "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head"; "Be not overcome of evil, but over come evil with good"; "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men"; "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal"; "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who . . . when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not"; "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing"; "If a man say I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar . . . and this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also"; and other similar passages, as well as from the whole tenor of the Gospel.
     
  3. Peace within the heart as well as toward others is a fruit of the Gospel. Therefore he who professes peace must at all times and in all relations with his fellow men live a life that is in harmony with the Gospel.
     
  4. We believe that war is altogether contrary to the teaching and spirit of Christ and the Gospel, that therefore war is sin, as is all manner of carnal strife, that it is wrong in spirit and method as well as in purpose, and destructive in its results. Therefore, if we profess the principles of peace and nevertheless engage in warfare and strife we as Christians become guilty of sin
    and fall under the condemnation of Christ, the righteous Judge.

Roman Catholic Just War Principles

This is a summary of the Just War perspective as defined by the Roman Catholic Church.

  1. A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.
     
  2. A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
     
  3. A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient—see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
     
  4. A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
     
  5. The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
     
  6. The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
     
  7. The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

Catholic Statement on Peace

Excerpt from "The Church's Teachings on War and Peace" by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thirty years ago Pope John XXIII laid out a visionary framework for peace in his encyclical letter Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). Pacem in Terris proposed a political order in service of the common good, defined in terms of the defense and promotion of human rights. In a prophetic insight, anticipating the globalization of our problems, Pope John called for new forms of political authority adequate to satisfy the needs of the universal common good.

His vision included three major elements:

  1. The Universal Common Good. A global order oriented to the full development of all peoples, with governments committed to the rights of citizens, and a framework of authority that enables the world community to address fundamental problems that individual governments fail to resolve. In this framework, sovereignty is in the service of people. All political authority has as its end the promotion of the common good, particularly the defense of human rights. When a government clearly fails in this task or itself becomes a central impediment to the realization of those rights, the world community has a right and a duty to act where the lives and the fundamental rights of large numbers of people are at serious risk.
     
  2. The Responsibility for Development. The right to and the duty of development for all peoples. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "[J]ust as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development." Development, he reasoned, will contribute to a more just world in which the occasions for resorting to arms will be greatly reduced:
    "[It] must not be forgotten that at the root of war there are usually real and serious grievances: injustices suffered, legitimate aspirations frustrated, poverty and the exploitation of multitudes of desperate people who see no real possibility of improving their lot by peaceful means."
    Development not only serves the interest of justice, but also contributes greatly to a lasting peace.
     
  3. Human Solidarity. The third imperative is to further the unity of the human family. Solidarity requires that we think and act in terms of our obligations as members of a global community, despite differences of race, religion or nationality. We are responsible for actively promoting the dignity of the world's poor through global economic reform, development assistance and institutions designed to meet the needs of the hungry, refugees and the victims of war. Solidarity, Pope John Paul II reminds us, contributes to peace by providing "a firm and persevering determination" to seek the good of all. "Peace," he declares, will be "the fruit of solidarity."

For more information contact web@uua.org.

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Last updated on Friday, May 3, 2013.

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