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Preventing genocide: the role of the church

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2006

Nico Vorster
Affiliation:
Faculty of Theology, School for Church Sciences, Northwest University, South Africanvorster@telkomsa.net

Abstract

Recent events in Sudan reiterate the fact that genocide is still a real threat in the modern age, despite important developments in international law. The aim of this article is to discuss ways in which churches can help to prevent genocide. The central theoretical argument is that military and legal preventative measures cannot address the underlying causes of genocide. Social factors that usually contribute to genocidal behaviour are difficult living conditions, nationalism, ethnocentrism, collectivism, authoritarianism, a culture of impunity and the distortion of morality. The most effective way to prevent genocide is to change the moral fabric of genocidal societies by fostering caring societies that emphasize individual moral responsibility, respect for life and the universal dignity of all human beings. As a moral institution the church can play an important role in changing the moral habits of societies. Churches must not compromise themselves by seeking political power or serving secular ideologies. The Bible must be interpreted in a responsible way that does justice to the message of the gospel. Churches must also foster individual moral responsibility; proclaim reconciliation, justice and peace; try to be active bystanders in conflict situations; address difficult life conditions and promote respect for life.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 2006

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