For too long, people have interpreted Jesus’ teachings of peacemaking practices as Platonic ideals, high and beautiful, but not practical in real life. But when Jesus taught the leaders in Jerusalem that they needed to practice peacemaking or the temple would be destroyed, he was talking realistically about a real threat and about the practical way to avoid the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem — which happened as Jesus had prophesied in 70 A.D.

For too long, people have treated Jesus’ teachings of peacemaking practices as if they were general principles. This diverts us from building our houses on the rock — actually living out Jesus’ words.

What is Just Peacemaking?

We have fashioned just peacemaking by beginning with Jesus’ teachings of peacemaking practices — as the way of realism — and connecting with analogous effective practices in our time. Our ten just peacemaking practices are concrete practices that are working in real history to prevent the destruction of war. Each just peacemaking practice is a historically contextualized teaching of Jesus analogously contextualized for our time. And each is being demonstrated to work effectively to prevent numerous wars, as attested by recent historical experience and the disciplines of political science and international relations. The new paradigm with its practices was developed by thirty interdenominational Christian ethicists and international relations specialists — the majority supporters of just war theory, and the minority pacifists — and is now being adapted by leading Muslim and Jewish scholars, based on the texts of their faiths. [1] We do not agree on the justice of making wars, but we agree on the need to prevent wars by specific practices that work. The ten practices of just peacemaking are:

1.   (Mt 5:38-42) Support nonviolent direct action, as practiced by Mohatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent direct action has toppled dictators such as Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the Shah in Iran, and Erich Honecker in East Germany. It is based on Jesus’ way of transforming initiatives.

2.   (Mt. 5:38-42) Take independent initiatives, as developed by the social psychologist Charles Osgood. This practice is how President George Bush senior and Gorbachev got rid of half their nuclear weapons.

3.   (Mt. 5:21-26) Use cooperative conflict resolution. President Carter used this practice to achieve peace in the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel; many other negotiations have prevented wars. [2]

4.   (Mt. 7:1-5) Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa used this practice to end longstanding historical injustices, and president Obama is nudging Turkey to use it to heal deep resentment over the Armenian genocide in 1915.

5.   (Mt. 6:19-33) Advance human rights, religious liberty, and democracy. During the 20th century, democracies with human rights fought no wars against one another.

6.   (Mt. 6:19-33) Foster just and sustainable economic development. Political scientist Ted Gurr has demonstrated that the most frequent cause of intranational violence, civil war, insurgency, and terrorism is not absolute poverty, but deprivation relative to expectations. [3]

7.   (Mt. 5:43ff.) Work with cooperative forces in the international system. International cooperation is crucial for progress toward abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide.

8.   (Mt. 5:43ff.) Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights. Unilateral policies cause more wars. The unilateral policies of the previous U.S. administration have demonstrated the point, engaging the U.S. in the War on Terrorism, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War. This calls for the present administration to engage in healing initiatives of cooperation.

9.   (Mt. 26:52) Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade. Reducing offensive weapons, especially nuclear weapons, and also the arms trade in weapons to developing countries, makes war less likely.

10.   Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups (Jesus’ strategy of gathering disciples and starting groups in villages). [4]

Just Peacemaking in Today’s World

Can this new paradigm for the ethics of peace and war, Just Peacemaking, guide us to more effective and preventive policy in our time of terrorist threat in the presence of nuclear weapons?

One thing is clear: declaring war on terrorism, on Afghanistan, and on Iraq, while abdicating responsibility for justice for Palestinians and for security for Israel, has not decreased terrorism but increased it. In fact, declaring “war on terrorism” is a euphemism for war on Muslim terrorists and two Muslim nations (Afghanistan and Iraq). The anger of Arabs and Muslims has increased accordingly, along with recruitment of terrorists. The official report of the U.S. Department of State on international terrorism shows the astounding increase in terrorist incidents worldwide since the Iraq War and the torture of prisoners:

208 terrorist attacks caused 625 deaths in 2003;

3,168 attacks caused 1,907 deaths in 2004.

Approximately 14,500 attacks caused 22,605 deaths in 2007.

The just peacemaking practices of human rights and sustainable economic development are crucial for halting recruitment to terrorism. This is how Turkey has basically ended the PKK terrorism of its Kurds. Economists Alan Krueger and Jitka Malecková5 show that “when Palestinian college enrollment doubled in the early 1980s, coinciding with a sharp increase in the unemployment rate for college graduates,” and “the real daily wage of college graduates fell by around 30 percent,” then frustrated and angry Palestinians turned to the popular intifada of 1988. When “the Israeli occupation of the territories and lack of an effective capital market or banking system…prevented the labor markets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from equilibrating,” the violent intifada of 2000 broke out.

Another thing is clear: avoiding talking with North Korea for seven years, and avoiding talking with Iran ever since the hostage crisis in 1979, while threatening them as the axis of evil, has not decreased their determination to produce plutonium or enrich uranium. North Korea has produced the plutonium for about nine atomic bombs, and tested one bomb. Iran is now enriching uranium to 3.5 percent, enough to run electricity generators, but not to be fissile material in bombs. They would need to enrich to 85 percent for a bomb. Their level of enrichment is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. If they expel the IAEC monitors and switch their centrifuges to producing highly enriched uranium, it would take them a month or two to have enough to construct a bomb. It would probably take a couple of years to perfect the technology to build a bomb.

Just peacemaking has a better response than refusing to talk. Its practices of justice, cooperative conflict resolution, and international cooperation are crucial. In fact, the Bush administration, led by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, finally allowed Christopher Hill to talk with the North Korean representative, and in two days he worked out the agreement for them to shut down their reactor and hopefully to give up their plutonium, depending on how relations go during the Obama administration.

Influential editorials in The Wall Street Journal (January 4 and 13, 2007) by seventeen conservative U.S. former national security policy-makers, including George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, James Goodby, and Sam Nunn, declared that the existence of large numbers of nuclear weapons in the world threatens to destroy untold numbers of humankind; and it decreases U.S. security. Today’s problem is preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons into more dangerous hands. They agree that the United States would be far more secure in a nuclear-free world. The power of the U.S. military to deter a conventional attack is more effective than nuclear weapons are against a nuclear attack. This means that if Christians work toward eliminating nuclear weapons, we have influential allies. [6]

These conservative national security experts advocate specific steps: extend key provisions of the 1991 and 2002 treaties verifying and reducing the size of nuclear forces internationally, agree with Russia to move away from operational plans for massive nuclear attacks based on short warning times, ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, affirm the development of the fissile materials cutoff treaty to halt production internationally of nuclear fissile materials for weapons, develop an international system that provides reliable supplies of nuclear fuel for electricity so nations like Iran do not have an incentive to enrich uranium unilaterally, accelerate Nunn-Lugar programs for security for nuclear weapons and for preventing terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb, strengthen inspections for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and reach agreement for further reductions in nuclear weapons internationally. The more worldwide reductions in nuclear weapons are achieved, the safer we all are. President Obama has now declared for these steps and has begun to implement them. But unilateral disarmament would not solve the problem. It must be achieved by the just peacemaking practices of international cooperation and cooperative conflict resolution.

Additional Resources

In this space, I cannot explain further how just peacemaking practices help with the threat of nuclear weapons in the context of terrorism. The websites mentioned above help. The book, Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm, (Pilgrim Press) helps more.

See also:

  • “War on Terrorism? A Realistic Look at Alternatives,” in Gerald Schlabach, ed., Just Policing, Not War (Liturgical Press: 2007).
  • “Just Peacemaking Reduces Terrorism between Palestine and Israel,” in War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Richard Hess and Elmer Martens (Eisenbrauns: 2008), 127-148.
  • “Humanitarian Intervention, Just Peacemaking and the United Nations,” Concilium: The Return of the Just War, ed. Marìa Pilar Aquino and Dietmar Mieth (London: SCM Press, 2002), 83-93.


[1] See

[2] See

[3] We explain this in the section, “Recruitment of Terrorists,” pp. 5ff. and in chapter 6 of the 2008 edition of Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm.

[4] Every Church a Peace Church ( has links to church peace fellowships.

[5] Krueger and Malecková, “Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: is there a Causal connection?” manuscript, May, 2002.

[6] See for the movement toward abolition.


Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and the co-author of Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context and Just Peacemaking.