What are the views on Christian morality on supplying weapons in a war?
This is a question that many have asked themselves at the present moment, especially considering the conflict the Ukraine/Russia conflict which commenced on February 24, 2022.
The US is one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine in this conflict. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that one nation can help armed conflicts in certain situations, which basically comes down to self-defence against an unjust aggressor, in this present scenario Russia.
Moral Responsibility and the Arms Trade
Arms exports may sometimes be legitimate, but they must meet moral principles, which include the following:
The duty to avoid war and promote peace. The United States, like other nations, can reduce the demand for weapons by doing everything possible to avoid war, rooting out the causes of violence, and affirmatively promoting international justice and peace. It is in light of a determined no to war and yes to peace that the morality of U.S. arms transfers must be weighed.
The right of legitimate defense. U.S. arms transfers may be justified only by the need to support another nation's right and duty of legitimate defense. Arms transfers subvert the principle of public defense when they expose people to attacks by their own government, the destructiveness of protracted conflict, or intimidation by armed groups that governments are unable or unwilling to control. In some cases, as Pope John Paul has pointed out, defense of the innocent requires that when "populations are succumbing to the attacks of an unjust aggressor, states [have a] .... duty to disarm this aggressor, if all other means have proved ineffective."
The principle of sufficiency. This principle permits the United States to transfer only those arms necessary for legitimate defense. The excessive accumulation of arms or their indiscriminate transfer is unacceptable. Arms sales are not justified by the fact that others will supply weapons if we do not.
The inadequacy of economic justifications for arms transfers. Economic considerations, such as protecting jobs and profits or promoting economic competitiveness, of themselves, do not justify arms transfers.
The Jesuit run website (America Magazine) in the US ran an article very much in favour of supplying arms to Ukraine:
We have a moral duty to protect Ukrainian civilians - but that doesn't mean going to war with Russia
Sometimes actions speak loader than words. It can be assum3d the Anglican Church would not object to supplying arms to Ukraine people. In 2013, the Church of England has up to £10m invested in arms firm.
The Anglican Church acknowledges that some states have a need to be armed by importation of weapons.
- The arms trade creates additional ethical complications. Arms trading can have benefits. Arms imports are essential to give many states the ability to defend themselves. Arms exports can also support the maintenance of viable national defence industries, as is the case in the UK. - Impediments to the existence of defence companies operating in line with Christian just war theory.
Thus it can be seen that the Church of England would be in favour of supplying a nation in need with the arms necessary to defend themselves from an unjust aggressor.
Many churches it seem are altogether against the arms trade or supplying arms to a nation in legitimate need to defend itself, but rather against the idea of arming those involved in the illicit trade in arms.
Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham and member of the International Affairs Department of the Bishops’ Conference, has joined Christian leaders from the Baptist and Methodist Churches and the Church of England to call for an arms trade treaty to help save lives.
In a letter to The Times (published 7 October 09), the leaders state that an arms trade treaty could “prevent human rights abuses and protect the livelihoods of communities around the world".
Sir, As Churches we have long argued that the global trade in conventional arms is an ethical problem that can only be addressed internationally. In July we were encouraged that all states agreed in the UN that there was a need to address the problems caused by the unregulated trade in conventional weapons. It is now time for states to honour this commitment by ensuring that the October UN discussions on an arms trade treaty result in a clear and convincing timetable to secure a strong and effective treaty.
Important though it is to ensure that national export controls are effective, an arms trade treaty would close the gaps that exist between national and regional export control arrangements, preventing conventional weapons from reaching the illicit market. By fuelling conflicts around the world, this illicit market causes massive social and economic dislocation in countries and regions that are already facing significant development challenges.
With the United Nations Development Programme estimating that 1,000 people a day — mostly women and children — are killed because of the illicit trade in arms, there is a clear moral imperative for governments to reduce the human suffering caused by the spread of illicitly transferred weapons. By helping to regulate the international trade in conventional arms, an arms trade treaty could help to save lives, prevent human rights abuses and protect the livelihoods of communities around the world. - Catholic Bishop joins Christian leaders in calling for an arms trade treaty