Churches should be 'vigilant' about nuclear proliferation

By staff writers
2 Mar 2007

The need for churches to be vigilant about nuclear proliferation has been stressed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee in a statement adopted at its 27 February - 2 March meeting in Bossey, near Geneva.

The WCC governing body reaffirmed "the churches' consistent call for the abolition of nuclear weapons", which today is "more urgent than ever" as control mechanisms like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are being put under pressure by recent global political and military developments.

Among those developments, the statement highlights North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests; Iran's "failure to assure the international community that its civilian nuclear programmes are not camouflaging its intention to develop nuclear weapons capability"; Israel's refusal to subject all of its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the "unilateral initiative" by the United States to accept India as a nuclear weapon state; and the "ongoing nuclear modernization programmes of the nuclear weapon states" - namely the US, UK, France, Russia and China.

The statement also mentions the dangers of "unintended or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons" as a result of "insufficiently secured weapons or weapons materials [falling] into the hands of non-state groups committed to acts of terror".

The WCC governing body is therefore encouraging the Council's member churches to continue communicating "an ethical and theological perspective on nuclear arms to their governments" in order to pursue the goals of "complete rejection of nuclear weapons" and of the "claims of [nuclear] deterrence".

The statement comes just after the Church of England reiterated its concern about the UK's proposed replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

While commending the churches in the United Kingdom "for their efforts to stop the replacement of the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system", the WCC statement urges the UK government "to set an historic example of leadership for the whole international community [...] by fulfilling its disarmament obligations under the NPT".

According to the WCC executive committee, churches should "engage with other faith communities in exploring ways of working together" towards those goals. This is particularly the case in the Middle East, where a nuclear-weapon-free-zone should be established, the committee says.

An "intensified and concerted church action" is crucial since "the nuclear proliferation challenges now facing the world can be effectively met if there is political will and moral fortitude", the committee believes.

The WCC governing body statement also includes a number of specific country-related appeals. Churches in the US and China are called to "persuade their governments to end their disagreement on a programme of work and resolve the stalemate" at the 2007 session of the Conference on Disarmament.

Churches in South Africa, Sri Lanka, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Syria are called to "encourage their presidencies" to achieve urgently needed progress on "a fissile material cut-off treaty, negative security assurances, nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space".

The WCC executive committee has committed itself to "support such initiatives as the New Agenda Coalition of Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden and the Middle Powers Initiative of international non-governmental organizations to press for the fulfilment of the NPT disarmament obligations".

The full text of the statement is available at:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?id=3170

See also the 9th WCC Assembly minute on "Elimination of Nuclear Arms" at:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?id=1956

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