The church shares numerous responsibilities through its doctrines and teachings in ensuring that there is justice and peace.
The elementary ecclesial community has been part of the struggle for liberation and social justice from time in memorial. The primary purpose of this paper is to assess the relevance of the virtues of justice and peace in the advancement of societies across Africa. However most importantly it significantly identifies the unique nature of the Christian approach to peace and justice.
As its purpose, this paper elucidates the role and responsibilities of the Christian Church in ensuring human and societal advancement through the promotion of justice and peace. The church since its inception has been an advocate for peace through justice in Africa. It has done this through promotion of social justice which refers to God’s original intention for human society. The creation of a world where basic needs are met, people flourish and peace reigns. The church is called upon to participate in the renewal of society so that all especially the weak and vulnerable can enjoy God’s good gifts of equality and peace.
To do this the church must rightly emphasize the administration of mercy. An essential component is that that ought to involve the identification of the root causes of what keeps people poor, violent, hungry and powerless as these aspects essential cause wars and conflict. It is in the light of these that the assessment of the Church’s role in the course of the promotion of justice and peace for Africa’s prosperity is necessitated.
As a virtue justice is a much invoked claim as well as a challenged concept. It is a subject of many arguments and disputes. Like major factors needed for sustainability and development, peace and justice are essential fundamentals in the quest for a prosperous society. All over the world these two elements have existed alongside each other in ensuring sustainable development. Undeniably, peace and justice are not to be understood in a totally individualistic manner. In most societies, religion forms the foundation of peace and justice.
The Church according to Sproul who explains that the church is a body of people saved by Jesus Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit who live to glorify God ( Sproul 2013 ) . Berkhof refers to it as the mother of the faithful. A term of affectionate respect found in ecclesiastical documents and especially in the writings of the saints. The church according to the New Testament is the community of God’s people. In this paper the author adopts this definition in looking into the role of the people who embody the church as well. Thus in this discussion the Church is in reference to the entire Christian body which is universal and not limited to any place or people but contains true believers of all times, places and peoples.
Justice is a term which can be said not to have a hard and fast definition as what is just to A may not necessarily be justice to B. In essence scholars are not of the same mindset as to the concept of justice. Though they differ in agreement scholars are however, in accord on some basic characteristics of justice (Peschke 1996). The first of these characteristics include the fact that justice is a social norm which is a directive for guiding men in their actions towards one another. The second is that justice is approbative in the sense that judging an action to be just and unjust manifests approval and disapproval of that action respectively. The last is that justice is obligatory judging a certain action to be just entails that a person in the like situation ought to do the same thing (Bird 1967).
Furthermore the conception of justice generalizes and carries to a higher level of abstraction the familiar theory of social contract as found in the works of Locke, Rousseau and Kant as alluded to by (Rawls 1971) .Research evidence suggests that racial and class differences exist in people’s perceptions of how justice is applied (Weitzer and Tich 1998). Justice just like fairness promulgates the original position of equality which corresponds to the state of nature in the traditional theory of the social contract. This original position is not, of course, thought of as an actual historical state of affairs but much less as a primitive condition of culture.
Hoose (1998) writes that although the injunction to ‘do justice’ has been a constant in Christian tradition, understandings of what injunction means and how to do justice are probably as numerous as the Christians who respond to that injunction. There are however, some differences. The Roman Catholics, for instance, have generally grounded the requirements of justice in natural law, presumably not accessible to only Christians and Catholics but all humans by virtue of their nature as reasonable creature. Protestant traditions have focused less on that which is common to all people and more on grace –locating justice in the good news of God’s saving acts and in the story of a community trying to live faithfully to that gospel. Irrespective of the difference, the concept of justice in both traditions carries a common theme.
Peace is more than the absence of war. It is the maintenance of not only a just societybut as well as an orderly one. Orderly in the sense of being protected against the violence or extortion of aggressors and just in being defended against exploitation and abuse by the more powerful (Howard 1971). Peschke (2010) states that the meaning of peace goes deeper than the absence of war, terror and violence (negative peace). It is rooted in the ‘tranquillity of a just and dynamic order of liberty’ (positive peace). Positive peace means transcending the conditions that limit human potential and assuring opportunities for self-realization. Peace in the positive sense is a high goal which has always been worked for anew. When peace is defined narrowly (in the negative sense) Barash (1991) indicates that it can imply passivity and the acceptance of injustice.
According to Cousins (1946) many writers distinguish between negative peace, that is, the absence of war and positive peace, that is, the presence of justice. Peace can be slavery or it can be freedom, subjugation or liberation as enunciated by Cousins. Genuine peace means progress toward a freer and more just world. Galtung (1969) developed the concept of “structural violence” to describe situations of negative peace that have violent and unjust consequences.
The writer accosts to the thinking that since peace is in an essential way conditioned by the respect for rights and justice it can also be defined as the work of justice.
This paper is primarily based on the theoretical framework of the social contract which is nearly as old as philosophy itself. It embodies the view that persons’ moral and or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Socrates used something quite like a social contract argument to explain to Crito why he must remain in prison and accept the death penalty. However, the social contract theory is rightly associated with modern moral and political theory and is given its first full exposition and defense by Thomas Hobbes. After Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are the best known proponents of this enormously influential theory, which has been one of the most dominant theories within moral and political theory throughout the history of the modern West.
Peace societies emerged in the nineteenth century but it was only in the twentieth century that peace movements as we presently understand them came into existence. Large-scale mobilizations against war took place in the years before and after World War I (1930s) and especially in response to the Vietnam and Iraq wars. These movements challenged government policy and were generally anti-imperialist in outlook (Cortright 2008). Mobilizations for disarmament occurred during the interwar years and re-emerged in the cold war as a response to the threat of nuclear war. Disarmament activism reached a peak with the massive nuclear freeze and disarmament campaigns of the 1980s. Some of those organizing antiwar and disarmament campaigns were absolute pacifists, rejecting the use of force for any purpose, but most were more pragmatic and conditional in their rejection of war. They opposed dangerous weapons, policies and unjust wars but not all uses of force. Still the purist position often predominated, conveying an impression of implicit pacifism that limited the peace movement’s public appeal. By and large churches pose the most effective peace movements in today’s world especially in Africa taking into cognisance its influence in society at large.
Dwight D. Eisenhower1 has stated that justice and peace are two sides of the same coin (United Nations 2004). Justice and peace go hand-in-hand and for peace to be absolutely experienced there must be ultimate exhibition of justice. Like major factors needed for development and sustainability, justice and peace are essential fundamentals in the quest for a prosperous society. This is to say that justice and peace are important concepts and virtues for the advancement of all societies. John Paul II in his words described justice as the foundation for solidarity. Hoose, however, observes that the major challenge facing contemporary Christians is precisely how to address questions of justice in a postmodern world where there is no shared vision of the common good or of the substance of justice.
In articulating the pathways toward peace in the modern world, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the document Gaudium et Spes, underscored the root causes of conflict,
“In order to build up peace above all the causes of discord among men especially injustice which foment wars must be rooted out. Not a few of these causes come from excessive economic inequalities and from putting off the steps needed to remedy them. Other causes of discord however, have their source in the desire to dominate and in a contempt for persons.