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Just Peacemaking:

The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War

The Pilgrim Press, 2008

Glen Stassen, Editor




Twenty-three Christian ethicists, international relations scholars, conflict resolution specialists, theologians, one New Testament scholar, and a handful of Peace Action leaders, worked for five years to create the new just peacemaking theory. Thirty scholars reached consensus on the new paradigm for the third edition, published in 2008. We believe this may be a breakthrough time, after the Cold War and when people need a roadmap for peacemaking, and during the time when countering the threat of terrorism mostly by making war, and threatening war, against various Muslim nations, has dramatically increased anger against the United States, as shown in The Pew Global Survey, and dramatically increased recruiting to terrorism, as shown in the U.S. Counterterrorism Agency, U.S. Department of State, annual count of international terrorist incidents:

•    208 terrorist attacks caused 625 deaths in 2003;
•    3,168 attacks caused 1,907 deaths in 2004.
•    11,111 attacks caused 14,602 deaths in 2005.
•    14,500 attacks caused 20,745 deaths in 2006.
•    Approximately 14,500 attacks caused 22,605 deaths in 2007.

Former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has mused that more terrorists are being recruited than the United States is killing or capturing. The agreed assessment by the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies in 2006 says U.S. actions against Arab Muslims are increasing anger and increasing terrorist incidents and training for terrorism. War and torture work: they work to cause widespread anger and to create increasing numbers of terrorists.

Surely we need a new approach that gets at causes of anger and of recruiting to terrorism. We see ten key practices of peacemaking that have been developing ever since World War II working effectively here and there to eliminate potential wars, and to halt terrorism, as in Northern Ireland and in Turkey’s struggle with PKK terrorism, which had killed 30,000 people but is now basically ended.

These just peacemaking practices are in fact growing stronger, and are intertwining in some major areas of the world to make war there very unlikely. They are spreading, but need citizen pressure to spread more quickly and more strongly. Places like Serbia and Rwanda prove the point: the ten practices had not penetrated there yet, and war did result.

We believe debates between pacifism and just war theory, while needed, are insufficient. Debates need to focus not only on whether to bomb, whether to make a war, but on what initiatives should be taken to avoid war and spread peace. For that, we need a third paradigm in the debate–just peacemaking theory. To have a well-focused debate, with people in different churches and different regions talking about the same criteria and thus strengthening the impact of the message, we need an agreed paradigm with clearly known practices of peacemaking that are scripturally grounded and that have been proven to be effective historically in preventing wars. With an agreed paradigm, we can point together to the same needed peacemaking practices.

We believe people need a new organizing vision for effective peacemaking to take the place of confusion about what peacemaking means after the cold war. We believe the ten practices that we have identified and described can provide that vision. We published the results of our work in September, 1998, in a book by Pilgrim Press, Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War. We are not so naive as to think we can abolish war totally next year, but we do have the empirical evidence from the best international  relations scholars that the ten practices are already abolishing numerous wars in several regions of the world. We want people to start thinking of abolishing wars, and understanding how we can be effective in pushing in that direction. The book was soon republished in a second edition in 2004, and then, with thirty scholars agreeing, in a third edition, Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War (Pilgrim: 2008).

Those who developed the paradigm include Paul Schroeder, the best historian of international relations there is, Bruce Russett of Yale, the outstanding International Relations professor at Yale who was the advisor for the Catholic Bishops' pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace, the main authors of the church statements on peace in the 1980's, Steven Brion Meisels, chair of Peace Action, the Christian ethicists who wrote books arguing we need a just peacemaking theory, and others. It has been something like a miracle that scholars so diverse reached such thorough consensus. The new paradigm is designed so it can be supported by people of good will from different faiths and no stated faith. Now leading Muslim and Jewish scholars have reached agreement that just peacemaking is the ethic we need; together we are developing a trifaith just peacemaking paradigm. See

You may find additional essays in the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 23/1 (Spring/Summer 2003) by Martin L. Cook, "Just Peacemaking: Challenges of Humanitarian Intervention"; Lisa Sowle Cahill, "Just Peacemaking: Theory, Practice, and Prospects"; Simeon O. Ilesanmi, "So that Peace May Reign: A Study of Just Peacemaking Experiments in Africa"; Charles Kimball, "The Just Peacemaking Paradigm and Middle East Conflicts;" Ronald H. Stone, "Realist Criticism of Just Peacemaking Theory"; Theodore J. Koontz and Michael L. Westmoreland-White, "A Just Peacemaking Bibliography." New articles and book chapters discussing just peacemaking theory are being published every year. I know of sixty such articles by now, and of course others are being published that I do not know of. Truly Just Peacemaking is the new paradigm for the ethics of peace and war. Any ethic that discusses only pacifism and just war theory is out of date.


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For More Information on "Just Peacemaking"

  • Just Peacemaking Initiative
    The Just Peacemaking Initiative will solicit resources for scholarships and provide funding for Ph. D. students who intend to include research on peacemaking in their program. It will encourage research on peacemaking, its theological, biblical, and ethical basis, and the growing attention to the new paradigm we have developed, “Just Peacemaking.”


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