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Edited by Vesselin Popovski, Gregory M. Reichberg and Nicholas Turner

World Religions and Norms of War

World Religions and Norms of War

World Religions and Norms of War
Edited by Vesselin Popovski, Gregory M. Reichberg and Nicholas Turner

ISBN: 978-92-808-1163-6
372 pages; paper; US$36.00
February 2009

Table of Contents

Sample chapter

Listen to an audio recording of the related policy brief (26 min., 25 MB mp3, right-click this link to save)

Recent armed conflicts—domestic and international—have drawn fresh attention to age-old questions concerning when war can be justified, and what methods and targets are permissible during war. Over more than two millennia, the world’s leading religious traditions— Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam—have provided guidance in these contested domains. This volume examines how the religions have responded to pressing moral challenges such as offensive and defensive war, the protection of noncombatants, asymmetric tactics, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction.

Written by an international team of distinguished specialists in their respective traditions, World Religions and Norms of War takes the reader on a unique journey through the evolution within the major world religions of attitudes and teachings related to the ethics of war. It systematically explores the historical roots and interpretations of norms within these traditions, linking them to the challenges of modern warfare. This combination of deep historical analysis and application to contemporary issues provides valuable insight, and even prompts us to rethink our understanding of the role and influence of religion in the state and politics.

Vesselin Popovski is Senior Academic Programme Officer and Director of Studies on International Order and Justice, Peace and Governance Programme, United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan. Gregory M. Reichberg is Senior Researcher and Programme Leader, Ethics, Norms and Identities Programme, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway. Nicholas Turner is Academic Programme Associate, Peace and Governance Programme, United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan.

All great religions hold life to be sacred; all profess peace, yet few are absolutely pacifist. This book distills a universe of original wisdom, shedding light on eternal questions of philosophy, politics, and law. It offers a nuanced and illuminating, not to say politically much needed, antidote to simplistic and self-fulfilling commentary on the clash of civilizations.
—Prof. Ramesh Thakur, Director, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Canada

This book is both timely and timeless: timely because of the surge of interest in the subject of religion and war, and timeless because it covers millennia of evolving human thought and principles. It is incredibly rich – in historical description, in scriptural references, and in illustrations of diversity within each religion.
—Dr. Walter Dorn, Professor, Royal Military College, Canada

This extraordinary volume should speak to those who are fed up with the use of religion to fuel conflicts, and is especially propitious at this moment in our history, which signals a potential policy shift from a ‘clash of civilizations’ to a ‘dialogue among civilizations’.
—Dr. W. Andy Knight, Professor of International Relations, University of Alberta, Canada

This splendid new book does not treat the dominant religions as monolithic, but devotes a chapter to each major branch, revealing harmonies and differences both between and within religions. There could hardly be a more timely or important book.
—Dr. Jeff McMahan, Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University

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