In the recent Gulf War, both sides claimed to fight in the name of God. Is religion a promoter of war? How does the Catholic Church view this war?
In commentaries of the mass media, religion is at times presented as a source of conflict. However, let’s get one thing clear. This war was not fought because of religion. All the same however, religion is occasionally used to justify wars that are fought for other reasons. People sometimes encourage others to fight, by insisting that the battle is a righteous one based on the will of God, a sacred war against the devil, and so on. The misuse of religion as an ideology is an unfortunate phenomenon that has repeated itself throughout history, but we need to be critical of it.
Now, if you were to go a step further and ask what we as Christians think about the Gulf War, my reply would be that this is a tough question. This is because there is no immediate or clear conclusion from the Gospel of Christ regarding the absolute denial of the use of force, or on the contrary, of the fact that we need to take up arms for the sake of virtue. In political issues there are a range of factors involved, and splitting them neatly into black and white is not an easy task. Rather, the reality is such that both black and white factors are included. In political matters, direct decisions such as Christians should adopt a specific position, or support a particular political party, cannot be reached.
Consequently, what Christians who seek to realize the kingdom of God need to do is this. In each situation, they need to reflect sincerely and in a prayerful manner as to how they should think and act, on the basis of the Gospel spirit. They then need to discuss the issue with each other and take the best possible decision, under the motivation of their own conscience. There is no other way than this. Of course, with regard to the Catholic Church, if the local bishops take the initiative and gather together the views of the entire Church it would be a great help, and an effective contribution to the cause of justice and peace. However, that may not necessarily be a view derived from Catholic faith, and besides, there may be other ways of thinking about it. Hence, I think it vital that we love and respect each other, and not insist that our own ideas are absolute, or rebuff other ideas of others.
However, if I may venture to express my opinion, I think it is safe to assert the following. War is not something God desires. As His Holiness Pope John Paul II stated, it is barbaric carnage and destruction, it is the innate result of human sin. No matter what cause you bring, that fact will never change.
Moreover, unlike in the past, the use of a single weapon today not only results in the mass murder of both combatants and non-combatants alike, but it also fatally destroys the ecological milieu, which is vital to the survival of the human race. Under such circumstances, can the logic of fighting for justice really be valid? I think the logic of employing police action in order to protect the international order has its limits. Even if it be a UN resolution, I personally do not agree with the idea of establishing justice by force.