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Developing a Faithful Response to Fear and War


"Peace is the highest and most strenuous action of the soul..."
—William Ellery Channing

"Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience..."
—Julia Ward Howe

Philosophy—UUA Peace and Social Justice Curriculum Team

By Pat Hoertdoerfer

Working with the UUA Peace and Social Justice Curriculum Team in the 1980s, I gathered with other Unitarian Universalist educators deeply committed to the causes of peace and justice. We struggled with the age-old problems of violence, exploitation, and oppression and with our cherished principles of human rights, freedom, and equality in the face of those problems. We developed In Our Hands, a life-span curriculum series of contemporary and realistic learning activities for children, youth, and adults. Our team articulated a philosophical centerpiece which informed the development of our curricula. The core of that philosophy is offered below to help you understand the current crisis and the foundations of our faith in response to these issues.

The Present Crisis

The most serious issues facing the world today are issues of peace and justice. Weapons of mass destruction, tyranny, terrorism, hunger, poverty, abuse, torture, even pollution, and the depletion of the world's resources are all problems of peace and justice. Although the magnitude and urgency of these problems today is unprecedented in human history, issues of peace and justice have always been central concerns of human beings.

Linking Peace and Justice

Peace and justice are necessarily interdependent. Real peace is not possible without justice. As long as individuals or groups are engaged in threats or acts of aggression, others are deprived of basic human rights, including freedom, equality, and life itself. Peace is achieving justice, cooperation, and nonviolence. True justice is not possible without peace. Injustice is the result of violence, which is often institutionalized as exploitation and oppression. Injustice is also a cause of violence in the form of criminal behavior, rebellion, reprisal, and repression. Justice is the realization of peace, freedom, and equality. Both peace and justice are necessary conditions for human fulfillment.

Ends and Means, Ideals and Realities

Peace and justice are at once ideal goals and actual processes. The vision of a just and peaceful world offers a stimulus for action and a standard by which to judge our efforts. As an actual process, peace and justice are always partial and never complete realizations of the ideal goal. Peace and justice are also integral parts of the process by which the goals are sought. The means for achieving peace and justice must be congruent with the ends of peace and justice. A just and peaceful world will not be without disagreement and conflict or the exercise of power. The realization of peace and justice thus requires the nonviolent resolution of disagreement and conflict. It also requires an exercise of power by individuals and institutions that is characterized by and in the service of the ideals of peace and justice.

Peace and Justice Relationships

The ideal of peace and justice is dependent on the four kinds of interrelated relationships:

  • Intrapersonal—among the various parts of the individual's psyche;
  • Interpersonal—between and among people;
  • Inter-institutional—between and among institutions of government and religious faith; and
  • Global—between each individual and ecology or nature;

Peace and justice education engages people by stimulating and encouraging their development as makers of peace and justice: within their own psyches, in their relationships with others, in their roles as citizens of a nation and members of a religious community, and in their identification as humans living on the earth.

Sources of Authority

Unitarian Universalists derive their authority for peace-and-justice making from several sources:

  • Their individual commitments to helping create peace and justice on this planet;
  • Their reverence for life;
  • The Principles and Purposes of our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.


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