Jude Lal Fernando – « Rethinking Human Security »

2. Just Peace as Human Security

Despite inner tensions within the WCC based on evangelical and liberational versions of faith, its Just Peace Companion is an alternative attempt to understand human security as Just Peace.[1] Published at the conclusion of the Decade to End Violence in 2012, the text reflects the member churches’ sensitivity to the experiences of conflict and war, to understanding structural causes, and to concrete attempts made to resolve conflicts peacefully. Just Peace is analyzed as a condition that blends together justice, compassion, righteousness and truthfulness.[2] It is with these characteristics that the biblical meaning of Shalom, which means wholeness, completeness and peace, amongst many other complex historical connotations, is interpreted as Just Peace. ‘It is not merely absence of conflict and war, but a state of well-being and harmony in which all relationships are rightly ordered between God, humankind and creation’.[3] It is ‘a holistic view of human security’.[4] ‘A “just peace” can be built only on right relationships in the community’.[5] The emphasis is on building relationships, which are seen as intrinsic to Christian imagination of God. The text does not present God in a static way, but ‘rather a dynamic one that expresses the great movement of love…’. [6] The triune God ‘reveals a commitment to communion’ and ‘God is at once a God of justice and peace…’. [7]

Commenting on the textual process of interpreting God’s Shalom, Sarah Gehlin notes how the churches have adopted the hermeneutical lens of Just Peace in developing a critically reflective faith. In the Bible, one can find complex and contradictory meanings associated with Shalom, which is not always achieved nonviolently or peacefully. ‘A different interpretation could have displayed other elements within this biblical perspective and thus pointed in another, in the worst case, violent direction. The orientation of the authors’ interpretations has implications for the shape of the theologically constructed just peace concept’.[8]

In achieving Just Peace, Christians are called to overcome both the Just War theory ‘that has been used unjustly to promote and defend too many wars’ and Pacifism that has been used as ‘an excuse to retreat from public responsibility into sectarian reservations of spiritual life…’.[9] Peacebuilding that brings about human security is ‘not just repairing what has been broken, but about expanding and completing relationships that make the oikos a mirror of God’[10] (25). In this way, the concept of Just Peace is not just a critique of the coopted UN human security discourse, but also an invitation and a challenge given to the churches to ‘go beyond the tired categories of pacifism vs. just war’ and imagine a new way of peacemaking and peacebuilding.[11] The critically self-reflective faith journey of some of the Korean churches in the North and South bears witness to this new imagination: resisting a military solution and engaging in dialogue for peace, reunification and reconciliation. Their efforts demonstrate the concrete sociopolitical and cultural implications of the theological imagination of Just Peace.

[1] World Council of Churches, Just Peace Companion, Geneva: World Council of Churches Publications, 2012.

[2] Ibid., p. 20.

[3] Ibid., p. 21.

[4] Ibid., p. 20.

[5] Ibid., p. 105.

[6] Ibid,. p. 25.

[7] Ibid., 25.

[8] Sarah Gehlin, Prospects for Theology in Peacebuilding, Lund: Lund University, 2016, p. 143.

[9] World Council of Churches, p. 96.

[10] Ibid., p. 25.

[11] Ibid., p. 97.