Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire: Concept of ‘just wars’ must be thrown out

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A Nobel peace laureate has called on world leaders to dismiss the idea of “just wars”.

Mairead Maguire, who was awarded the accolade in 1976 after founding the Peace People campaign during the Northern Ireland Troubles, told a conference in the Vatican that lessons can be learned from the conflict.

“We need to throw out the ‘just war’ theory, a phony piece of morality,” she said.

“Instead, we can develop a new theology of peace and non-violence and articulate a clear, unambiguous rejection of violence. Religion cannot be used to justify war or armed struggle.”

Ms Maguire, who was to meet Pope Francis after addressing the disarmament conference in Rome, said world leaders have yet to learn the lessons of the US nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“It is an illusion that we are in control and that these weapons give us security,” she said.

Ms Maguire, who visited North Korea in 2015 and has appealed for dialogue amid nuclear threats, added: “The policy of nuclear weapons show that we have lost our moral compass.

Francis poses with participants in the International symposium on a nuclear weapons free world
Francis poses with participants in the International symposium on a nuclear-weapons-free world, at the Vatican (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

“It is long overdue that we abolish nuclear weapons and put resources, human and financial, into abolishing poverty and meeting human security as set out in UN development goals.”

Ms Maguire praised Pope Francis and said he gave clear moral and spiritual leadership in calling for the abolition of the death penalty and nuclear weapons.

She did not reference US president Donald Trump in her speech, but she said the international community must insist on dialogue and diplomacy to deal with the North Korea issue.

Ms Maguire said the experience of the Iran nuclear agreement could be replicated.

“We can transform the erroneous mindset that violence and threats of violence works, weapons and war can solve our problems. Punitive policies do not bring peace,” she said.

Ms Maguire, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Betty Williams, also said that many policies agreed in the Northern Ireland peace process have not been fully implemented.

Francis
Mairead Maguire said the Pope gave clear moral and spiritual leadership in calling for the abolition of the death penalty and nuclear weapons (Niall Carson/PA)

“What could have been set up was an independent body charged with the implementation of the (Good Friday) Agreement whose recommendations for resolving disputes would be binding on the parties,” she said.

“In the absence of this, the Executive is obliged to address every crisis on a case-by-case basis and with no commitment to accepting recommendations to resolve the crisis.”

Ms Maguire said the key to progress lies in the community through integrated education, peace education and other initiatives.

“At the heart of a peace culture is a recognition that every person’s life and their humanity is more important than a person’s ethnic inheritance,” she said.

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