The application of the “Just War” ethic, as taught by the Catholic Church, to the political and economic crisis in South Africa during the period 1960-1989.
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I focus on the Just War ethic.as taught by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church teaches, among other things, that as long as there is no competent international arbitrary body to prevent the danger of war, individual nations cannot be denied the right to self-defence. This Catholic teaching emphasizes that this decision to fight a war of self-defence should, however, be taken only after every means of peaceful negotiation has been exhausted. My aim is to apply the Catholic Church's teaching on the Just War ethic to the 1960-1989 historical period of South Africa. During this period the South African government subjected black people to a very repressive legislation, thereby depriving them of their political and economic rights. Concerted efforts on the part of black people to protest against this apartheid legislation were always ruthlessly thwarted by the government. Statistics reveal, among other things, a very large number of blacks who were shot dead by the police, and another large number who were detained without trial, for protesting against abject conditions of poverty, chronic illness, illiteracy, and unemployment, brought about by apartheid. During the same period, the United Nations (UN) organization proved to be impotent: dominated by Western powers who acquired colossal amounts of profit through their trade-links with South Africa, the UN could not impose economic sanctions against South Africa. It is this impotence of the UN together with the intransigence of the South African government which led many militant black people to the decision of liberating South Africa through an armed struggle. This obduracy of the South African government together with the inability of the UN to annihilate apartheid through harmful measures also meant the Just War conditions as stipulated by Vatican II above, were fulfilled in South Africa . At this stage, those few radical Catholic priests in South Africa should have jointly announced that the official teaching of the Catholic Church unambiguously supports the question of the armed struggle which is undertaken in the event of the total failure of long periods of peaceful resistance. This doctrine of the Catholic Church would have been welcomed as a surprise to black people, the majority of whom were used to a pacifist interpretation of Christianity. The implementation of the Catholic Church's doctrine would have possibly resulted, among other things, in black families encouraging their children to train themselves militarily across the borders of South Africa, with the aim of eventually combating apartheid through revolutionary violence. Furthermore, this doctrine of Vatican II would have possibly prevented a massive exodus of militant blacks from the churches. The disillusionment of these blacks with Christianity resulted from the pacifist interpretation of Christianity. Such an implementation did not take place. Does that mean that my thesis is obsolete? On the contrary, it is valid for any present or future context of despotism.