Though there are over half a billion Buddhists around the world, there has so far been no systematic and focused study of the interface between Buddhism and International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The core of IHL – also known as “the law of war” or “the law of armed conflict”– is formed by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Its purpose is to minimize suffering during armed conflict by protecting those who do not – or no longer – participate directly in hostilities, and by regulating the means and methods of warfare.
Buddhism has grappled with the reality of war throughout its long history. But what guidance does Buddhism provide to those caught up in the midst of hostilities, and how do Buddhism and IHL compare in this respect? It is timely and relevant to explore these two distinct bodies of ethics and legal traditions from inter-disciplinary perspectives.