The United Nations & War Crimes

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The United Nations appeals to the use of restorative justice over punitive justice. That is, it claims that peace is best served by restoring others rather than by brutality in war.

Therefore, it tries to limit the use of war, and one of the ways it does this is to regulate the operations of warfare.

Many of the war crimes in the Second World War were committed on both sides, not just by Germany and Japan. Many civilians were deliberately killed. The United Nations made regulations that conducted warfare, like prohibiting the killing of civilians, forbidding torture, the use of weapons of mass destruction and to make it mandatory to obtain United Nations approval to launch a war.

All of these stipulations have been broken and no major nation is innocent of this. If the United Nation is to control the use of war, and even to reduce war, then its stipulations are important and need to be honoured.

In recent times some Christians have supported their home nations in ignoring the United Nations in these matters and encouraged their own nations to take these matters into their own hands, to deal with what they see as threats in the world. Today, drones can be used without the law requiring nations to give account on who is killed. Matters like this, that reduce our accountability in war, make the world a more dangerous place for everyone.

As a pastor in Germany said when Hitler was rising, “They came for the Jews and we weren’t Jews, so we said nothing. They came for the Communists and we said nothing. Then they came for us, and there was no one to help us.” Or as has been more recently said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” This was a major theme of the United Nations in its founding and remains today a very important issue.

The theme of leading our communities towards restorative justice over punitive justice, is a biblical teaching, as the only way to establish growing peace in relationships. The United Nations calling us to forgo capital punishment and punitive imprisonments, to instead work to help to rehabilitate criminals, recognizes the inequalities in our communities that sometimes encourage crime. These are biblical concepts that, like the jubilee, lead us to see mercy, rather than sacrifice, as the main aim of correction. If we give these concepts up, we are regressing into past brutalities in our nations.

If we give them up, we have no grounds to regulate the sins of other nations in these areas, even when they are committed against ourselves, or others we love. One aim is to disarm all our nations of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. This is a clear biblical aim and all of us need to work together to achieve it.

Regulations for war had been established before the United Nations adopted them and expanded them. They have been ignored and set arise before. We don’t want to do that again.

Today there are many new issues in war, like the ability for machines to make decisions on who to kill, without a human making these decisions. These, and many other matters, raise ethical issues in war, that the United Nation claims matter in relation to the dignity of human life. Once again, the United Nations is following biblical themes here on humans being made in the image of God and the respect for life.

Jesus said this respect is to be given to all people, even our enemies, and not just those in our own group or nation. If we don’t follow this, we aren’t following Christ. We can’t just disagree with the matters of justice the United Nations raises, whenever it suits us, and claim to be Christians.