What does Gospel nonviolence look like in action? The Fellowship of Reconciliation held a joint conference with the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship looking at this, and included a talk from the Revd David Mumford. Over a series of 14 blogs, some short and some longer, he outlines the different themes and topics covered in his presentation.
All Christians have a strong preferential option for nonviolent methods of conflict resolution. Public authorities at national level put resources into enabling this through diplomacy and support of international bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations. In particular, UNESCO sponsored a decade for promoting a culture of peace and nonviolence from 2000-2010. Christian social teaching places a responsibility on public authorities to promote the common good.
However much more is spent on military preparations – even in countries across the European Union, resources for nonviolent peacemaking and peacekeeping are less than 1% of the military budget. There is an old saying that when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. This gives a large bias towards looking to military intervention. It would be fair to say that the UK’s military involvement in Iraq was illegal and an unqualified disaster for the Iraqi people and the peace of the Middle East. It would also be fair to say that the UK’s military involvement in Afghanistan was partially illegal, unsuccessful in terms of significantly changing the situation and brought about many casualties, civilian and otherwise. In fact, one would have to go back as far as the Falklands to find a ‘successful’ military action – the 1999 intervention in Sierra Leone could just as easily have been nonviolent. And the UK decision to renew Trident is a clear repudiation of any good faith in implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and could lock the UK into being a nuclear weapons state for the next 30 years, as well as adding massively to the sums spent by the country on preparing for war not peace.