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On this day, we remember in prayer the people who died, their families and the people who continue to suffer as a result of the terrorist attacks on Washington DC and New York on September 11, 2001.

 A year later, we ask ourselves what have we learned from what happened on September 11, 2001?  The year has seen ongoing violence and threats of violence in many parts of the world, as if the use of force will bring a lasting peace.  

The United Nations has declared an International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) and the World Council of Churches has declared a Decade to Overcome Violence for this same time period.  The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council is using “cultivating a culture of peace” as a unifying theme for its work during the decade.  Using the language of “cultivating” rather than “building” a culture of peace helps communicate the idea of allowing peace to grow out of who we are and what we do.  Cultivating a culture of peace takes time and requires our means to be in harmony with our aims.

At the same time, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council is alarmed and saddened by the threat of a military attack on Iraq.  Countries such as the United States of America and Australia could be showing the world that there are non-violent ways of dealing with issues, that reaction and revenge only create more violence.

The use of force should only be considered when all other options have been explored but proven unsuccessful.  For the use of force to be justifiable, a number of conditions need to be met simultaneously:

  1. It must be an act of self-defence against an unjust aggressor
  2. The action must be initiated by a legitimate authority
  3. It must be the last resort after all non-violent means have been exhausted
  4. There must be a reasonable chance of success
  5. The action must not cause greater evil than that which it sets out to address
  6. The action must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants

These conditions are a formulation of the ‘just war’ criteria and it is yet to be demonstrated that these conditions have been met simultaneously in relation to the current situation with Iraq.

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