World churches chief slams nuclear 'outrage'
The spread of nuclear weapons technology is "an outrage to all humanity" in an unstable world of terrorism networks and increasing violence in the name of religion, the head of the largest alliance of Christian churches said yesterday.
The Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), did not mention any specific country in his report to delegates and observers representing nearly every branch of Christianity. But he told reporters before the speech that his remarks were aimed at both nations with nuclear arms and others, such as Iran, that may be seeking to acquire them.
He also singled out Iran's leading critic - the United States - with warnings that it remains vulnerable to terrorism and that economic and technical advances in once-poor countries are chipping away at its status as the world's sole superpower.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, has previously called on countries to uphold the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Church leaders have also urged the British Government to spell out the conditions under which it might forego a replacement of Trident.
"Nuclear proliferation is an outrage to all humanity," Kobia told clerics, scholars and religious activists gathered for meetings aimed at strengthening bonds and plotting new priorities for the group's more than 350 member churches.
"The recent reports of countries acquiring nuclear weapons technology is frightening. But it is equally a scandal that countries which possess vast arsenals of nuclear weapons are unwilling to renounce their use," Kobia said.
The United States and other nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear arms, but Tehran says its atomic program is only for energy production.
Kobia, a Methodist pastor from Kenya, cited the United States as a lesson that no nation is immune to the "new era" realities: terrorism, religious divides and natural disasters amplified by climate change.
"How can we talk of any country as a superpower when the government cannot protect its people from terrorism, from natural disasters, from preventable diseases?" he said.
His wide-ranging address also touched on some of main issues facing delegates before the conference ends on February 24: global warming, dialogue with Muslims, internal rifts over gay clergy, and the rapid growth of evangelical-style churches outside the World Council fold.
The WCC comprises mainline Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox churches. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member, but takes part in many forums and had top envoys at the 10-day meeting in Brazil. The assembly hopes to conclude with declarations intended to set new objectives for member congregations.
Kobia told the gathering that working to "prevent religion from being used as a weapon" is one of the critical needs of the 21st century.
"Globalization is a reality on every level, not just economic," said Kobia. "Terrorism appears to be globally networked, as is the war on terrorism. The consequences of this affect people in their activities and dignity almost everywhere ... contacts across communal divides may prove to be the most precious tool in the construction of peace."
Kobia is the sixth general secretary in the council's 58-year history.