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Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Forgiving people and moving on is often seen as praiseworthy. However, not everyone feels it always
possible to forgive.

Christians believe forgiveness is a key virtue. There

Key Terms:
are many references in the Bible to forgiveness and
forgiveness – the action of no longer
reconciliation. For example:
feeling anger against someone and, in
• Jesus said ‘if you do not forgive men their trespasses some cases, giving them a second chance.
[sins], neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’
(Matthew 6: 14-15) reconciliation – when two people or
countries discuss their difficulties and
• He also told his disciples to be prepared to forgive become friendly again.
someone 77 times (Matthew 18: 21-22). Most Christians
interpret this to mean we should always forgive.
• Jesus also said that, when faced with violence and aggression, we should ‘turn the other cheek’.
(Matthew 5: 39).

Islam also stresses the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.

• The Qur’an tells Muslims to make peace with their enemies and act justly towards them. Allah, it says,
‘loves those who act justly’. (Qur’an 49: 9).

• It also says not to seek revenge when we are wronged by others. Rather, we should reply to evil with
good actions. In this way, we can make peace with our former enemies (Qur’an 41: 34).

However, there are people within each of these religions who may not always believe forgiveness is
possible. For example, some Muslims still regard Shirk (denying the oneness of God) as an unforgiveable
sin. Others may believe that some crimes (such as the murder of children) can never be forgiven.

Exam Practice!
Explain two Christian beliefs about forgiveness.

In your answer, you must refer to scripture. (5 marks)

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Causes of War
War is an unfortunate reality of the world we live in. In this section you will look at why wars happen.

There are many factors that can cause countries

Key Terms:
to go to war with one another. Some of these are:
war – armed conflict between two countries
• economics – where wars are fought for money or different groups.
or resources.
peace – a time period in which there is
• religion – where different religious views lead no war.
to violence.
pacifism – the belief that war and violence
• nationalism – where a nation or ethnic group can never be justified.
believes it is superior to others leading to war.

• ideology – where people go to war because of different political beliefs.

Decisions to go to war are often very controversial. Some people believe wars may be necessary because:

• we may have to fight in self-defence;

• it is necessary to fight dictators who threaten human rights and global stability;

• organisations like the United Nations must sometimes fight to restore peace.

However, some people oppose going to war in all circumstances. These people are known as pacifists.
They argue wars should never be fought because:

• they kill innocent civilians which can never be acceptable;

• they destroy the environment;

• modern weapons like nuclear war are so destructive that their use can never be accepted. Wars should
therefore always be avoided.

Exam Practice!
‘It is never acceptable to fight in a war.’

Evaluate this statement.

In your answer, you should:

• refer to Christian teaching;

• give developed arguments to support this statement;

• give developed arguments to support a different point of view;

• reach a justified conclusion.

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Religious Views on War: Christianity
Christian views on war are divided into two main camps: those who believe in Just War theory and
those who are pacifists.

Just War theory was created by Saint Thomas Aquinas.

It sets out when it is legitimate for Christians to fight
in a war. It says a war is just (acceptable) if it meets
the following conditions:

• It is approved by a legitimate authority (such as the

government or the United Nations).

• It is fought for a good reason (such as self-defence).

• It is fought with the aim of establishing peace.

• There is be a reasonable chance of winning.

• It is a last resort (so you must try to negotiate first).

• It uses the minimum amount of force needed to win.

• Civilians are not harmed.

However, some Christians believe it is never acceptable to fight in wars. One pacifist Christian group is
the Quakers. Groups such as these may believe war is unacceptable because:

• Jesus’ message is one of non-violence and peace;

• the Decalogue tell us not to kill (Exodus 20: 13);

• modern warfare is so destructive that it always kills civilians.

War in Scripture
‘Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take
the sword will perish by the sword.”’ (Matthew 26: 52)

Exam Practice!
Explain two contrasting Christian views on war. (4 marks)

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Religious Views on War: Islam
Muslims believe in lesser jihad, or ‘Holy War’. It is a Muslim’s responsibility to fight in or support a
war if it can be shown to be right.

It is very difficult for a war to count as a holy

war. To do so, it must meet several criteria,

• It should only be fought in self-defence, to

prevent injustice or to defend other Muslims.

• It cannot be fought for profit, to gain territory

or for similar motivations.

• Civilians must not be harmed.

• Enemies who surrender must not be harmed

and should be forgiven.

• The environment or a country’s resources should not be destroyed.

• Holy buildings should be respected.

A good example of a holy war is the one fought by the Prophet Muhammad against the forces of
Makkah. Muhammad only fought when attacked and, when his enemies surrendered, did not seek
revenge on them.

War in Scripture
’If they do fight you, kill them – this what such disbelievers deserve – but if they
stop, then God is most forgiving and merciful. Fight them until there is no more
persecution.’ (Qur’an 2: 191-193)

‘Those who have been attacked are permitted to take up arms because they have
been wronged.’ (Qur’an 22: 39)

Exam Practice!
Explain two Muslim views on war. (4 marks)

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Weapons of Mass Destruction
Many countries in the world today possess weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The use of WMDs,
however, is very controversial.

There are many types of WMD. These can include:

Key Terms:
• nuclear weapons; weapons of mass destruction – weapons
that can kill many people or destroy large
• chemical weapons;
areas of land. For example, nuclear bombs.
• biological weapons.

Some people believe these are necessary as a deterrent

to other countries. Others, however, are worried about
their use and proliferation.

WMDs did not exist at the time religious scriptures

were written. This means there is some disagreement
amongst religious people about how their scriptures
should be applied to WMDs. However, most Christians
and Muslims oppose their use because they violate
the conditions of Just War and lesser jihad by killing
civilians and damaging the environment.

Exam Practice!
‘It can be acceptable to use weapons of mass destruction in some situations.’

Evaluate this statement.

In your answer, you should:

• refer to Islamic teaching;

• give developed arguments to support this statement;

• give developed arguments to support a different point of view;

• reach a justified conclusion.

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Many of you will have seen terrorist attacks on the news. Sometimes, these atrocities are carried out
in the name of religion.

Terrorism is opposed by many people as it often involves

Key Terms:
the murder of civilians and the destruction of property.
terrorism – when people use unlawful
However, people who carry out terrorist attacks may
violence to try and achieve a political aim.
feel it is the only way to achieve their political aims.
This often targets civilians.
All religions have, at times, had terrorist atrocities
carried out in their name. Mainstream religious groups,
however, condemn terrorism. This is most commonly
because it kills innocents and religious teachings
prohibit murder.

Both Muslims and Christians have strict rules on when a war may be fought. Because of the nature of
terrorism, it cannot fulfil the criteria necessary to satisfy Just War theory or lesser jihad.

Though the Bible and the Qur’an do not address terrorism directly, their teachings strongly imply that
it is unacceptable. You can see some passages below that Christians and Muslims may turn to when
considering the issue of terrorism.

Furthermore, it should be noted that in recent years some terrorists have committed suicidal attacks.
Neither Islam nor Christianity could support these as both religions do not allow suicide, which is seen
as ‘playing God’.

Terrorism in Scripture
‘Do not take life which Allah has made sacred.’ (Qur’an 17:33)

‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have
loved you, that you also love one another.’ (John 13: 34)

Exam Practice!
Explain two reasons why Muslims should oppose terrorism.

In your answer, you must refer to scripture. (5 marks)

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Religious Work for Peace
For your exam, you may be required to know some specific examples of religious people or groups who
work for peace.

Religious figures who have worked for peace include:

• Gandhi – he led non-violent resistance to British rule

in India. He believed that this was the best way to
put the Hindu belief in ‘ahimsa’ (not harming living
things) into practice.

• Martin Luther King – based on his Christian beliefs,

he campaigned against the Vietnam War. He said his
conscience did not allow him to support war.

• Muhammad Ali – the famous boxer refused to fight

in the Vietnam War. As a Muslim, he said war was
against the teachings of the Qur’an unless it was
specifically commanded by God or his Prophets.

A religious group famous for its work for peace is Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organisation. They work
for peace in the following ways:

• Organising campaigns and protests against war. These help raise public awareness of conflicts and
pressures governments into acting to resolve them.

• Providing peace education in schools. This aims to help build a more peaceful world in the future.

• Working in warzones to record the destruction and human rights abuses that occur in war. They then
try to bring these to the attention of the media to spread awareness of conflicts.

• Praying for those living in warzones.

Exam Practice!
Explain two ways religious people can work for peace. (4 marks)

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