Just War

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Just War

What makes a just war? As you ponder this question, you ask yourself is there really a correct answer? The word "just" contradicts every aspect of war. Can a chaotic and brutal event, such as warfare, be guided by reason and fairness? During the height of the 12th and 13th century in Europe it was thought that every war should be fought for a just cause. It was during this time that the concept of chivalry arose, creating a sense of honorable and courteous conduct expected among knights. Knights were to feel a personal obligation to the weak and defenseless elements of their society. Therefore it became a knight's duty to fight off anyone causing harm to the helpless people of his society. The notion of fighting for the good of society thus became a just cause for war.

The ideas of chivalry came about through the church in an effort to Christianize the military. The church made a knight take an oath that his sword "may be a defense of churches, widows, orphans, and of all those who were not entitled to bear arms." Books were also written that marked out the rules of chivalry in more detail such as The Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and The Order of Poor Knights of Christ. The books stated things like, "protect churches and ecclesiastical property, unarmed women, non-noble children under the age of fourteen, and unarmed clergy peasants engaged in their labors." The rules of chivalry gave a purpose to fighting. War was honorable because it was for the protection of helpless people. Those who fought for the good of society were fighting for a good and just cause and would be looked highly upon in the eyes of God.

The rules of chivalry also applied to the other side of warfare. Knights who were fighting had to follow honorable rules when dealing with the enemy. A chivalrous knight would not harm the weak or the defenseless people during warfare. In this way war became "fair" because only the armed would fight.

The rules of chivalry became commonly understood social laws. Knights followed the rules of chivalry because it made them honorable, good men and pleased the Lord.
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