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Just War and Non-Violence in the Peacemaking Statement of Conscience

General Assembly 2009 Event 1004

Moderator: Mac Goekler. Speakers: Sharon Welch, Paul Sawyer, John Hooper, John Schaibly. Sponsored by the Commission on Social Witness.

The Peacemaking Statement of Conscience (SOC) is the first of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) 4-year Study/Action Issues. It is on the agenda for discussion and action during the 2009 General Assembly. This workshop was an opportunity to hear a variety of perspectives on these complex issues from a panel of four speakers and from the audience.

Sharon Welch provided a context by outlining many options other than the two in the title: "Just War and Non-Violence." She talked of a variety of peace work: Peace Keeping, Peace Making, and Peace Building, and introduced the emerging model of "Just Policing." In considering the use of force in peace-keeping operations, she encountered many paradoxes such as "tactical success guarantees nothing." A tactical military success does not establish a lasting peace. She was especially appreciative of how much she has learned from Unitarian Universalists (UUs) who work for peace from within the military. "There is much that I don't know," she concluded.

Paul Sawyer passionately argued that no war is a Just War. In the modern era "There is now no possibility of a Just War," he argued. He envisioned a time to come when even defensive wars would be considered immoral. If peacekeeping is necessary, for example to oppose genocide, it needs to be under UN jurisdiction. He emphasized the long history of Unitarian and Universalist involvement in peace movements, a proud history that he believes is not fully described in the history section of the Statement of Conscience.

John Hooper described the process used by the core team and the UUA Commission on Social Witness (CSW) to write the draft SOC. The team received feedback from more than 80 congregations and the SOC has benefited greatly from so many voices from many different backgrounds.

John Schaibly displayed the UU Peacemaker newsletter and demonstrated the Peace Ministry Network. This valuable resource will continue long after the SOC is finalized this week.

After the presentations from the panel, the audience was invited to comment. Speakers thanked the core team and the CSW for their work and expressed their appreciation of how much the SOC has progressed over the past four years. Several speakers addressed the links from war to all other forms of conflict, including neighborhood violence and domestic violence, issues that are addressed in the SOC.

Many speakers appreciated how much they gained from the process, especially the opportunity for dialog with UUs in the military. Sharon Welch expressed her hope for continuing dialog and urged us not to focus only on what we are against, but also to consider what we are working towards.

Reported by Mike McNaughton; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.