Pacifism is the belief that war and violence could never be justified.

Above is the logo for CND – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The CND are an organisation that campaigns, non violently, to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

There were many men in the two world wars who refused to fight because they disagreed with violence. These people are called ‘conscientious objectors’.

Task: Research an example of a conscientious objector and explain why they refused to fight in one of the two world wars.

There have been many examples of pacifism in terms of refusing violence to protest against something they deem to be wrong. This is called peaceful protesting. One famous example is Martin Luther King, who demonstrated against racial segregation in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s. He led rallies, boycotts and gave speeches, instead of being violent.

Task: Watch this video and explain why this speech is believed to be so powerful.

Task: Find another example of a peaceful protest and summarise it in your book. You could research Gandhi’s salt march, Rosa Parks’ boycott or the suffragettes for example, or find your own.

Christianity and Pacifism

Many Christians are pacifists because they believe that Jesus was a pacifist. Jesus said:

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Matthew 5:9

In the Ten Commandments, the idea of killing is condemned. Also, Jesus taught that people should love their enemies.

Put your sword back in its place.’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’

Matthew 26:52

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.’

Matthew 5:39

The Quakers are a group of Christians who are completely opposed to violence.

On the Quakers in Britain website, it says: Quakers are perhaps best known for our peace testimony. It comes from our belief that love is at the centre of existence and that all human life is of equal worth. It has led Quakers to refuse military service and work creatively for peace. This has ranged from practical work in areas affected by violent conflict to developing alternatives to violence at all levels. This could be personal or international.

You can read more about Quakers and their peace work here.

Task: Write a short speech, imagining that you are a Quaker and you have been asked to go to war. Include reasons why you would believe that war is wrong in all circumstances.

Islam and Pacifism

Pacifism has historically not been a part of Islam, because Muhammad needed to use violence when he was persecuted and forced to leave Mecca. Violence is not rejected completely by Muslims, but peace should always be promoted first.

Task: Read the quote below and explain how it relates to how Muslims should react to violence.

If you should raise your hand against me to kill me – I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear Allah, Lord of all the worlds.

Surah 5:28

Warfare has been part of Islam since the time of Muhammad, for the defence and the spread of the religion. Jihad is something that all Muslims should follow in their daily lives. Jihad is split into lesser and greater jihad.

  • Lesser jihad – a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam
  • Greater jihad – the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin

Task: Explain two religious beliefs about pacifism. Refer to sacred writings or another course of religious belief and teaching in your answer. (5 marks)

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