There is much discussion in recent years about "proxy" wars. The definition of a proxy war can vary. It may be a war in which the major protagonists do not fight each other directly on their own territories. Instead they might fight on other territory on another pretext, perhaps using allies, when a closer study might reveal that it is, in reality, one power fighting another power in defence or furtherance of their own interests.
It is often suggested that many recent conflicts are really about resources - oil, uranium, food bowls. If this view is borne out, where does that leave the Just War Theory? What should be the stance of Christians?
There are Christians who have long since made up their minds on these issues. These include the historic peace churches - Quakers, Mennonites, and the Church of the Brethren - as well as some other Christian traditions.
One thing is clear: the basic Christian response should be to consider - in the context of faith and discipleship - a call to arms by a governing authority.
The letter below appeared in the comment section of The Age newspaper of 7 October 2014. It is evidence that a Christian mind is being exercised.
I welcome the discussion on ''just war''. The planes, however, are already flying and, as usual, ethical thinking limps after events. Some politicians deny this is a religious war; Prime Minister Abbott denies it is war. But it is undeniable that the conflict between the so-called Christian West and Islamic communities has a religious character. Just war doctrine originated from the Roman Stoic Seneca (65AD) and was adapted by fourth-century Augustine of Hippo. The church was no longer a pacifist community. ''Christian'' leaders sought to balance political and spiritual demands.John Howard Yoder, US Mennonite theologian, concludes that just war doctrine is so stringent it is almost impossible for war to be declared just. It all but prohibits war-making. US political analyst Noam Chomsky argues that national interest, not ethical concern, is served by war. If David Wroe sees permission to go to war (The Saturday Age, 4/10), the final clauses of the doctrine impose severe limits. Violence must be proportional to the injury suffered and the weapons used must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets and their deaths justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target. Certainly, we must find ways of protecting and liberating oppressed peoples. But don't contemporary military strikes from a distance disqualify modern war-making as ''just''? Wouldn't the requirement to protect non-combatants be sufficient to prohibit modern warfare?
Wes Campbell, retired Uniting Church minister
Advocacy Editor's note:
Rev Dr Wes Campbell studied arts and theology in Perth, Melbourne and Tübingen (Germany) where he studied under Jürgen Moltmann. He has ministered in congregations in Perth and Melbourne, and taught theology in Perth and Whitley College (Melbourne). He directed social justice policy and education in the Synod of Victoria, was convener of the Commission on Education for Ministry in Victoria and convened the Doctrine working group for seven years (2005 – 2012). He is currently chaplain at the University of Melbourne. He is also an artist.