British Christians call for end to nuclear weapons
On the 60th anniversary of the nuclear attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, senior Christian figures in Britain have called for the UK government to make a commitment that it will never use nuclear weapons and that it will actively seek their abolition.
Catholic bishops, the general secretary of the Methodist church, Quakers, a Mennonite and top biblical scholars are among some 20 Christian individuals and three church organisations to sign a statement appearing in today's Guardian newspaper, sponsored by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Over 250,000 people were killed and generations poisoned by radiation when the two Japanese cities were destroyed in 1945, at the end of the Second World War.
The United States says it took the action, with Allied agreement, to end Japanese resistance. But many experts question the validity of this claim, alleging instead that the motive was related to the beginnings of a superpower arms race with the Soviet Union.
Britain today has just under 200 nuclear warheads, each eight times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The UK has begun developments at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston which could produce a new generation of nuclear weapons.
Alongside members of parliament and London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the church figures signing CND's plea to end the global nuclear threat include Methodist Church leader, the Rev David Deakes; the Rt Rev Thomas Macmahon (Catholic Bishop of Brentwood); the Rt Rev James O'Brien (Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster); the Rt Rev Ambrose Griffith (Catholic Emeritus Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle); and the Paul Oestreicher (Anglican Canon Emeritus of Coventry Cathedral and Quaker Chaplain to the University of Sussex).
Two of Britain's most respected biblical scholars are also among the signatories. They are the Rev Professor Christopher Rowland (Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford), and the Rev Professor Charles E. B. Cranfield, a retired Greek specialist.
Others identifying with the statement include Church of England General Synod member the Rev Paul Collier; former Catholic priest and peace activist Bruce Kent; Quaker Peace and Social Witness; Christian CND; the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship; Veronica Zundel from the UK's only Mennonite Church, and twelve other clergy from different denominations.
The 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima falls on the day when many Christians celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, a manifestation of God's glory based on the story in St Matthew chapter 17, where Jesus is revealed alongside Peter, James, John, Moses and Elijah.
'The contrast between the light of life in the Transfiguration story and Hiroshima's blinding light of death could not be greater,' commented Simon Barrow, Co-Director of the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia.
He added: 'The deployment of nuclear weapons adds to global insecurity, and Britain should now play a significant role in ending their proliferation.'
The international community is currently trying to persuade Iran not to move ahead with its own nuclear weapons programme.
The Hiroshima bomb on 6 August 1945 killed 130,000 people, 95 per cent of whom were civilians. A Christian chaplain read prayers as the Enola Gay plane took off to carry out the attack.
Comments Paul Oestreicher: 'There is no ethical justification for weapons of mass destruction - Christian, Muslim, Jewish or humanist - no more than for the suicide bomber.'
Britain's Trident nuclear submarine system comes to the end of its life in 2024. The government is planning a £10 billion replacement, but the Methodist Church is now calling for a debate about this.