Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus
  Studium Theologicum Salesianum participates in the Symposium on “Placing Civilians in the Line of Fire – A Religious Perspective”  

The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Military and Strategic Affairs Program in cooperation with The Elijah Interfaith Institute organized a very thought provoking symposium on the issue of “Placing Civilians in the Line of Fire”. This innovative step taken by Dr. Gabi Siboni, Head of the Military & Strategic Affairs Program, INSS, along with saw representatives from various religions sharing their views on the issue to a packed auditorium at the INSS on 40 Haim Levanon St., Tel Aviv.

Catholic Moral Theology Professor and Principal of the Studium Theologicum Salesianum, Salesian Pontifical University, Jerusalem, Rev. Dr. Biju Michael, SDB presented the Catholic Church’s teaching on the issue. A group including priests, nuns and seminarians participated and raised questions during the discussions.

Sheikh Fadel Mansour, Senior member of the Druze community represented the Druz perspective on the laws of war. Qadi Iyad Zahalka the Qadi of the Jerusalem Sharia Court presented the laws of war in Islam. Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, of the Jerusalem Ethics Center talked on the religious laws for distinguishing between fighters and civilians in the line of fire. At the end of the presentations, a vibrant audience engaged the panelists in a very active open discussion.

Drawing from the scriptures and the teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, Fr. Biju Michael drew attention to the sacredness of human life, the need to respect the equal dignity and rights of all human beings, solidarity and to the care needed in choosing the means used even in the case of legitimate right to self defense. He drew attention to the fact that violence only leads to further violence and that war is a defeat for humanity. Christ who did not use violence to exercise his right to defend himself and asked Peter to keep his sword in its sheath continues to be a challenging example.

Many stimulating questions were raised at the open session. How do you explain that in the last century more people died in violence than in many centuries put together? Should not religions just forbid war rather than speak of the ethics of warfare? Does not presentations of the teachings in various religions seem removed from the real world of violence we experience? What do we understand by ‘pursuing evil’ as distinguished from defending oneself from evil? How do you fight evil in war? What impact does religion or religious teaching have on soldiers or strategists? The organizers had to intervene to cut short the volley of questions due to lack of time.

One of the participants congratulated the Institute for National Security Studies Military and Strategic Affrairs Program for this important initiative and proposed that such dialogue and soul-searching be a more regular and organized program rather than a one-time event. The symposium was truly in line with the call of the UNO and the church. Pope John Paul II’s words at the turn of the century was quoted: “All too many and horrifying are the macabre scenarios in which innocent children, women, and unarmed older people have become intentional targets in the bloody conflicts of our time; too many, in fact, for us not to feel that the moment has come to change direction, decisively and with a great sense of responsibility.” The symposium on “Placing Civilians in the Line of Fire” was an important step in this direction. This was the theme of the Papal intention for February 2013.

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