Forum discusses Just War

Speakers from different faiths addressed the issue of religion and the Just War theory at Shepparton campus of GOTAFE on the evening of Wednesday, 15 April 2015.

Opening the session, Cr. Fern Summer represented Mayor Denis Patterson and gave a welcome to country. Cr Fern Summer ennumerated City of Greater Shepparton's activities in building a strong and diverse multicultural community.

The keynote talk was given by local historian Pat Crudden. In his talk, Pat Crudden referred to an event he participated in, during 2005:

In 2005 I was asked to speak at the launch of a book titled No Locked Doors written by Shirley Randles whose maiden name was Shirley Hyat. The author grew up in Orrvale as a member of one of the 60 Jewish families living on orchards in the district at that time. I would like to share with you something that Shirley wrote:
In Australia there were no pogroms. On the contrary it was a democracy that offered equal rights to all its citizens. Although no Jewish community remains in Shepparton today, for over thirty years it offered the settlers safe haven, freedom to practice their religion, a good living in return for hard work and free education for their children.
You may think that has nothing to do with Just War Theory but I believe it has. We already have here in Australia what many people in the world are still fighting for (safe haven, freedom to practice their religion, a good living in return for hard work and free education for their children). It is something to be grateful for. It is something to be shared.

Brief Summary

Just War Theory is essentially an idealistic commitment to justice and peace. It aims to balance that ideal with political realities that predominate when deciding on and conducting war. It has never really found that balance but it has kept the possibility of just war alive.

The alternative is to seek more flexible means of reducing confrontational issues within and between nations than traditional just war theories have managed to achieve. This means building global institutions committed to peace-keeping and peace-building and ensuring that they have the capacity to achieve by negotiation a resolution previously dependent on a resort to force of arms.

Yet day by day we are made aware of the difficulties facing people in societies in which violence seems to be endemic. Why is this violence still with us? Whatever our religious, or philosophical, or scientific, or political beliefs we don't really know the answer to that; but we do know that nothing is of more value in modern life than working constantly towards justice and peace. Let us all be diligent and united in reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of each and every human person.

You can download the full version of Pat Crudden's talk here.


Mr Melwinder Pandher, President of the Shepparton Sikh Gurdwara, addressed Sikhism and war, and referred to the history of Sikhism. Drawing on the history of relations between Sikhs and Muslims, there was reference to how the founder of Sikhism - Guru Nanak - challenged Muslims to find tolerance and to fulfil their practices as true Muslims and to accept that Allah exists in all. There was also discussion on the emergence of the militaristic spirit of Sikhism, what is known as the Khalsa. Mr Pandher emphasised that war and defensive actions were taken up in defence of the oppressed. It was also highlighted that war is for the purpose of protecting one's rights.

Importance of Gallipoli

In his comments, Imam Mevlut Torlakcik said that every year on 24-25 April, the battle of Gallipoli is commemorated at the Gallipoli peninsula, with many from Australia and New Zealand. It is a vary important and meaningful occasion for Turks and ANZAC's and the occasion is definitely a symbol of peace, understanding and forgiveness. The Turk-ANZAC spirit will continue with ties of friendship and respect which unite Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, forever.

Imam Mevlut Torlakcik went on to say that "Today our nations enjoy friendly relations and cooperation for the preservation of peace and security, not only in our regions but also in various parts of the world."

Panel Discussion

Councillor Fern Summer addressed the coverage of the ANZAC Centenary, and how this is presented to young people, in various media. A concern was expressed about war and social media and the inability of young people to use their discrimination and think carefully about the material they read on social media, which tended to glorify war - which is in fact, ugly, harsh, and terrible to experience personally. Cr Fern Summer said that there was a need to have clarity about the manifold aspects of war and not allow it to be glorified in young minds.

Panel moderator, Dr Frank Purcell referenced the Just War theory and how this tended to be taken on by religions to lend a religious approval or some sort of morality about the reasons for going to war. Dr Purcell said that a number of religions had engaged in this intellectual rationalisation. Pat Crudden passed the observation that while there are principles for engaging in Just War, these principles do not help the conduct of theatres of conflict, nor are these principles any aid to peaceful and enduring solutions.

Participants in the Just War Forum (ltr): Pat Crudden, Dr Frank Purcell, Melwinder Pandher, Imam Mevlut Torlakic, Cr Fern Summer.


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