For Educators

War and Religion – Procedures For Teachers

PrepPreparing for the lesson
StepsConducting the lesson
ExtensionAdditional Activities


Prep

Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running WindowsÆ 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM.
    Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. Download the free Adobe Acrobat reader here:
    http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.

Bookmarked sites and Video Resources:

TIP: Prior to teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links. Preview all of the sites and videos before presenting them to your class.

  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives — Religious Views on War and U.S. Response, September 21, 2001.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week503/perspectives.html
    An exploration of what various religious traditions and international law have to say about military retaliation and the idea of a “just war.” The most relevant part of the article starts from the beginning and ends after Dr. Esack’s second comment with the words, “And so these people do in fact see that the United States is embarking upon the movement as a war against Islam.” For the purposes of this lesson, you may instruct students to stop reading there.
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives — Religious Views on War with Iraq, September 13, 2002
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week602/perspectives.html
    Presents various religious views on the issue of whether the U.S. should launch a unilateral, preemptive attack on Iraq. Also considers the just war theory in relation to Iraq, and whether the “just war” idea changes in the face of modern technology (i.e. weapons of mass destruction held by many nations of the world).
  • “Religion, War, and Violence” videotape from Religion and Ethics.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/resources/or_videotapes.html
    Visit this area of the Religion and Ethics Web site for information about obtaining a copy of this 90-minute VHS videotape. Note: The following clips from this video are included in this lesson, though the second one can be replaced by the “Religious Pacifists” Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly Feature below.

    • Just War. Run time: 8:08 (can cut at approximately 6 minutes). A look at what constitutes a “just war,” and whether recent conflicts such as Kosovo, Rwanda, and the Gulf War can be considered “just” (or might have been considered “just” in the case of Rwanda, where no one intervened.) The section that is most relevant to this lesson ends after approximately 6 minutes, when interviewee Jean Bethke Elshtain says, “We know the Iraqi people have suffered terribly in the aftermath of those conflicts.”
    • Religious Pacifists. Run time: 8:30. An examination of religious pacifism in a number of religious communities, a look at the new challenges pacifists face, and their proposed non-violent responses to the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.
  • PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Feature — Religious Pacifists, October 19, 2001
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week507/feature.html
    Examines the views of a number of religious pacifist groups toward military retaliation, as well as a number of the criticisms and accusations made against pacifists by other religious and non-religious Americans.Note: Use this text resource if you do not show the video clip of this show (see “Religion, War, and Violence” videotape above).
  • About the War Resisters League.
    http://www.warresisters.org/about_wrl.htm
    Includes concise sections on the philosophy and politics, history, and statement of purpose of this long-standing pacifist organization.
  • Veterans for Peace: Statement of Purpose
    http://www.veteransforpeace.org/OrganState.htm
    Brief statement from an organization of war veterans who have committed themselves to the abolition of war.

Related Resources

  • Sean Penn’s Open Letter to President Bush, American Politics Journal, Nov. 3, 2002.
    http://www.americanpolitics.com/20021103Penn.html
    A moving appeal from father to father, citizen to citizen, to use restraint and great care in dealings with Iraq. Penn urges the president to prioritize the quest for peace and security for the future generations of all the countries of the world.
  • Afghanistan’s Refugees, October 26, 2001
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week508/perspectives.html
    An interview with the executive director of Catholic Relief Services, in which he addresses the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which has been exacerbated by the War on Terrorism.
  • Ramadan and War, October 9, 2001.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week510/newsfeature.html
    Examines the viewpoints of Muslims regarding the bombing campaign waged by the United States during the War on Terrorism in Fall 2001, falling during Ramadan — the holiest month for Muslims.
  • Rethinking Schools: War, Terrorism, and America’s Classrooms: Teaching in the Aftermath of the September 11th Tragedy.
    http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/sept11/index.shtml
    A Rethinking Schools Special Report. (grades 6-12)
    A powerful resource for educators that includes background readings, instructional materials and teaching strategies to help educators and their students explore issues such as justice versus revenge, the true meaning of Islam, patriotism and nationalism, and alternatives to war.

Materials:

Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Ideally, a screen on which to project the Web-based video clips
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom

Students will need the following supplies:

  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils
  • Dictionaries


Steps

Introductory Activity:

1. Write the following question on the board: What is a “just war?”

2. Explain to students that they will be hearing four scenarios read. Each scenario describes a real situation in world history, but the names of the country or peoples involved have been intentionally left out. Some of the scenarios represent situations that the United States responded to by engaging in war, and others represent situations that the United States did not respond to at all. Note: The four scenarios are included as a handout at the end of this lesson.

This handout is intended as a resource for you, the teacher, and not for the students. It is recommended that you cut the handout so that each scenario is on its own strip of paper before distributing it to students to read. The four scenarios are: 1 — Germany; 2 — Vietnam; 3 — Kosovo; 4 — Rwanda.

3. Distribute the scenarios to four volunteers to read aloud.

  • After each scenario is read aloud, ask the following question: Would this have been a “just war?” Students “vote” yes or no on each scenario, while the teacher keeps track on the board (i.e. Scenario 1: Yes-10, No-15). Students should vote by raising their hands with their heads down on the desk or with their eyes closed to ensure that each voter thinks for him or herself.
  • After each scenario has been read and a vote taken, students have the opportunity to explain their vote. Call on two or three volunteers for each scenario.
  • Lastly, ask students to try to identify each scenario (i.e. Scenario 1 is Germany etc.). They might need your guidance here. You might ask some guiding questions such as, “Scenario 1 mentions that wiping out an entire religious group was the aim of this regime. Which leader and regime in Europe tried to wipe out an ethnic group?”

4. Ask students, based on their discussion, to brainstorm a working definition of a “just war.” Track their responses on chart paper, and hang this working definition in the classroom. Explain that during the following activity students will begin to explore the concept of a “just war,” and that they will revisit their working definition over the next few days and revise it based on new information.


Learning Activities:

Activity One: Exploring the “just war” theory

1. Refer students to their working definition of a “just war” and ask a volunteer to read it aloud. Explain that students will now explore this concept further, and that they will be asked to revisit the working definition at the end of the activity and revise it based on their research.

2. Ask for volunteers to explain what the War on Terrorism is and whom it is being waged against. Ask where it has been waged — in what countries, against whom? Ask what makes the War on Terrorism different from other wars? Track students’ responses on the board. If students’ responses don’t include the following information, offer some prompts to guide them: the War on Terrorism is a response to the attacks of September 11, 2001; it is being waged against the Al Qaeda terrorist network as well as other terrorist groups around the world; it has already been waged against Al Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan; what makes it different is that it’s not a war against any one particular nation, but against groups of terrorists who reside in and operate from various countries.

3. Have students read the following resources:

    PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives –
    Religious Views on War and U.S. Response, September 21, 2001.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week503/perspectives.html
    The most relevant part of the article starts from the beginning and ends after Dr. Esack’s second comment with the words, “And so these people do in fact see that the United States is embarking upon the movement as a war against Islam.” For the purposes of this lesson, instruct students to stop reading there.PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives –
    Religious Views on War With Iraq, September 13, 2002

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week602/perspectives.html
    Presents various religious views on the issue of whether the U.S. should launch a unilateral, preemptive attack on Iraq. Also considers the just war theory in relation to Iraq, and whether the “just war” idea changes in the face of modern technology (i.e. the weapons of mass destruction held by many nations of the world).

Explain to students that the second reading is about a potential war with Iraq before U.S. troops entered the country, and is not strictly about the War on Terrorism as a response to Sept. 11, 2001. However, it provides a good discussion about the “just war” concept and the defining elements of such a war.

As they read, students should do the following:

    1. list any new terms
    2. list any criteria for a “just war” mentioned in the readings

4. Have students partner up to complete the following tasks. Although students are working in pairs, each student should be responsible for handing in the assignment at the end of the activity (except for the last task).

  • Using one another as a resource, and using their dictionaries, students should define any of the new terms they identified in the reading.
  • They should revisit the working definition of a “just war” that the class arrived at the previous day. They should revise it according to the criteria or guidelines for a “just war” as outlined in the resources they just read.
  • Each student in the pair must fill out the first column of the Exploring Controversial Issues organizer, labeling it “The War on Terrorism is a Just War.” Tell students that they can continue to add facts and evidence that support this perspective over the course of the next couple of days. They will not hand in this organizer until later in the lesson.

Activity Two: What makes a war a “just war,” and what has been considered just in the past?

1. Inform students that at the end of the lesson they will each be responsible for writing an essay (200-300 words) addressing one of the following topics. Post these topics in the classroom for students to think about over the course of the lesson.

  • Is the War on Terrorism a “just war,” and should we pursue it?
  • What lessons can the tradition of pacifism offer the United States at this point in history?
  • If neither of these two traditions (“just war” and pacifism) are adequate, what elements of each might you keep and what new options, strategies or perspectives might you introduce?

Note: You may wish to allow students to choose their own essay topics as long as they are based on ideas that are closely related to the resources that the entire class will explore.

2. Hand back students’ work from the previous activity and draw their attention to the working definitions of a “just war” that they worked on with their partners. Have a representative from each pair share that pair’s definition. Then ask the class to draw on the definitions they have just heard to create a strong and concise class definition of a “just war.” Track the discussion and the emerging definition on the board and then ask for a volunteer to transfer the final definition to chart paper. This definition will be posted in the classroom for the remainder of the lesson.

3. Have students respond to the following question in their notebooks and then call on one or two volunteers to share their answers:

“According to the guidelines for a ‘just war’ laid out in the readings during the previous activity, is the War on Terrorism just? Why or why not?”

Students will have an opportunity to revisit their responses later in the lesson to see if their positions have changed.

4. Explain to students that it may be difficult to determine whether the War on Terrorism is a just war because the enemy, its location, and the ultimate objectives of the war, are still being defined. Other wars in the past fifty years have been more easily classified as “just” by many because the enemy’s identity, source of power, location and motives were clearly identified and understood.

Ask students what major war has been considered just and necessary by many people around the world. If they don’t identify WWII immediately, you might prompt them by asking, “Which mid-20th century war managed to stop a leader who aimed to exterminate minority groups and take over more and more territory throughout Europe?” Explain that more recent conflicts and wars have also been considered “just” by many, and that students will view a video that considers some of those other conflicts from a “just war” perspective.

5. Post the following questions on chart paper (prepared in advance):

  • Why was intervening in WWII easy to justify for most people?
  • How is military intervention often justified?
  • What are some of the “just war” criteria that President Bush senior evoked during the Gulf War in 1991?
  • What happened with Rwanda? Was there intervention? Should there have been?
  • What is another important question about war that was raised by this video? (prompt if they don’t get this one immediately — it should be “how can wars be conducted justly?”)

Have the class brainstorm additional questions as they view the video clip, and add them to the list.

6. View the following video clip from the Religion & Ethics videotape “Religion, War, and Violence”:

    Just War. Run time: 8:08 (can cut at approximately 6 minutes). A look at what constitutes a “just war,” and whether recent conflicts such as Kosovo, Rwanda, and the Gulf War can be considered “just” (or might have been considered “just” in the case of Rwanda, where no one intervened). The section that is most relevant to this lesson ends after approximately 6 minutes, when interviewee Jean Bethke Elshtain says, “We know the Iraqi people have suffered terribly in the aftermath of those conflicts.”

7. Call on volunteers to answer each question, and allow time for discussion of each response.

HOMEWORK (over three nights): Students will prepare and conduct a survey (8-10 questions) on the subject of whether the War on Terrorism is a just war. The survey should also include questions related to pacifism, and students should add questions related to pacifism after Activity Three. Refer students to the Using Surveys and Polls handout for tips on how to conduct a survey (make sure to hand this out in advance of the homework assignment). Survey respondents can include family members, religious figures, neighbors, teachers, or friends — but students must have some variety among their respondents. Students should survey at least 10 individuals.


Activity Three: Is the War on Terrorism a “just war,” or can no war really be just?

Note: May take two class periods. Also, following Activity Three, consider inviting a guest speaker from a pacifist organization to speak with your class. This is a good opportunity for students to learn more about the pacifist and anti-war movements in this country, and about the reaction pacifists often receive from more mainstream groups. (Organizations you might try: War Resisters League, Veterans for Peace, the Quakers, etc.)

1. Have students return to the partners they worked with during Activity One. Explain that students will read an article by Howard Zinn and then discuss a number of questions. Each pair will also be asked to fill out the second column on the Exploring Controversial Issues organizer, labeling it “No war is just, including the War on Terrorism.” Each student in the pair is responsible for filling this out and handing it in.

2. Have students read the following article:

    “A Just Cause, Not a Just War,” by Howard Zinn. The Progressive.
    http://www.forusa.org/nonviolence/unjustwar_zinn.html
    Students should read about two-thirds of the way through the article, finishing after Zinn writes, “Pacifism, which I define as a rejection of war, rests on a very powerful logic. In war, the means — indiscriminate killing — are immediate and certain; the ends, however desirable, are distant and uncertain.”

3. Post the following questions on the board for the pairs to discuss:

  1. In your own words, does Howard Zinn think the War on Terrorism is a just war? Explain.
  2. What does he describe as the effects of the bombing in Afghanistan beginning October 7, 2001?
  3. How are war and terrorism similar according to Zinn?
  4. According to Zinn, are the goals of the War on Terrorism really attainable?
  5. What is pacifism and what logic does it rest on?

Note: It is important to point out that Zinn is not only looking at religious pacifism, but at a broader range of perspectives grounded in the belief that violence and war are unacceptable ways to resolve conflict.

Students should also fill out the “No war is just, including the War on Terrorism” column of the Exploring Controversial Issues organizer to be handed in.

4. Ask for volunteers to explain what they think pacifism is. Write their responses on the board. Ask the following question: “Is it possible to be a pacifist and to be patriotic after September 11, 2001?” Make sure students understand the term patriot and patriotism. Allow for discussion of this question.

5. Explain that there are many religious and non-religious groups that believe deeply in pacifism. Pacifists believe that violence is not the answer to violence, and that the United States should consider new strategies for dealing with international conflict. As they explore the resources in this activity, ask students to think about why so many Americans think pacifists are unpatriotic because they don’t support the War on Terrorism.

6. Introduce the following video clip to students as a look at religious pacifism after September 11, 2001:

    Religion & Ethics videotape “Religion, War, and Violence” — Religious Pacifists. Run time: 8:30. An examination of religious pacifism in a number of religious communities, a look at the new challenges pacifists face, and their proposed non-violent responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

7. Have students explore the following resources on non-religious pacifism, asking them to make note of how pacifists defend their position:

8. Ask for volunteers to explain the arguments given by pacifists to support their position. Track their responses on the board. Return to the question that you posed earlier: Why are pacifists seen as unpatriotic because they don’t support the War on Terrorism? Why are they criticized? Allow time for discussion of this question, and any additional questions students might have after viewing the video and reviewing the other resources on pacifism.

9. Remind students that they were asked to reflect on the following question earlier in the lesson:

“Is the War on Terrorism a just war? Why or why not?”

Have students return to the responses they recorded in their notebooks at the beginning of Activity Two. Ask them to think about whether their responses have changed at all — or if they find it harder to answer this question with a yes/no answer now. Ask them to respond to the question again in their notebooks.

HOMEWORK: Add questions related to pacifism and the anti-war stance to the surveys, and continue to conduct surveys.


Culminating Activity/Assessment: Preparation

Note: Students have three nights to develop and conduct their surveys, and one class period and 1-2 nights to write their essays, survey summaries, and create a visual. Tailor the assignment to suit the amount of time you have to spend on this lesson. You may edit down the culminating assignment and/or delay the due date of the final presentations and essay to give students more preparation time.

1. Explain the three-part culminating project to students:

    • Is the War on Terrorism a “just war,” and should we pursue it?
    • What lessons can the tradition of pacifism offer the United States at this point in history?
    • If neither of these two traditions (“just war” and pacifism) are adequate, what elements of each might you keep and what new options, strategies, or perspectives might you introduce?
  • Part I: The essay

    Each student is responsible for writing an essay (200-300 words) addressing one of the following topics:

    Part II: The survey summary

    Students must incorporate their survey results into their essays, using the results as evidence or to raise questions. Additionally, the survey data should be summarized and described fully in a one to two paragraph summary in which students identify any demographic trends or patterns (age, sex, race, ethnicity) they identified, and hypothesize or draw conclusions about the relationship between these factors and people’s responses. Students should also hand in a copy of their survey questions with their summaries.

    Part III: The visual

    Students will create a visual depicting the perspective they argue in their essays, either with a partner who wrote about the same topic or individually. The visual might be a chart or graph, a poster, political advertisement, illustrated timeline depicting events leading to the present decision, or mural illustrating the views of average citizens in the U.S., Afghanistan, etc. Point out to students that this would also be a good opportunity to create a visual representation of their survey results. Each student or pair will schedule a time to present their visuals to the class.

2. Have students suggest how their performance on this project might be assessed. Track their responses on chart paper. Then share the Rubric for Culminating Project and explain that these are the elements that you will be evaluating students on. Ask the class if any of those that they identified are missing from your rubric. If they are, consider incorporating all or some of them into the rubric.

3. Allow class preparation time. Urge students to spend time reviewing their survey results, preparing summary statements or interpretations to include in their essays, reviewing their notes on the Exploring Controversial Issues organizer, and developing their essay and visual. Encourage students to conduct additional research, if necessary, to strengthen their essays.

Note: This is a good opportunity for the teacher to check on the progress of the surveys and to address any questions or concerns students might have.

Homework (2-3 nights): Students finish conducting their surveys and preparing their essays, survey summaries and visuals.


Culminating Activity/Assessment: Presentations

1. Students hand in their essays and survey summaries.

Students present the visual component of the project. Allow some time after each presentation for discussion and questions from students.


Extensions

  • Have students explore whether international criminal courts of law could serve as an alternative to war. Use the following lesson plan to expose students to issues related to such courts:
      PBS Wide Angle: Global Classroom: Lesson Plan on Human Rights
      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/classroom/lp3.html
      This lesson plan (geared toward high school students) asks students to consider whether those who commit massive violations of human rights should be held accountable in international courts of law. Students focus primarily on the case study of Slobodan MiloseviÁ’s regime.
  • Have students consider whether a war with Iraq would be a “just war.” Students might explore the following resources:
      PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Perspectives –
      Religious Views on War with Iraq, September 13, 2002

      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week602/perspectives.html
      Presents various religious views on the issue of whether the U.S. should launch a unilateral, preemptive attack on Iraq. Also considers the just war theory in relation to Iraq, and whether the “just war” idea changes in the face of modern technology (i.e. the weapons of mass destruction held by many nations of the world).Iraq: How many must die? By George Capaccio. Rethinking Schools Special Report: War, Terrorism, and America’s Classrooms.

      http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/sept11/16_02/many162.shtml
      A firsthand account of the suffering of innocents wrought by U.S. sanctions against Iraq.

      Sean Penn’s Open Letter to President Bush, American Politics Journal, Nov. 3, 2002.http://www.americanpolitics.com/20021103Penn.html
      A moving appeal from father to father, citizen to citizen, to use restraint and great care in dealings with Iraq. Penn urges the president to prioritize the quest for peace and security for the future generations of all the countries of the world.