Nuclear non-proliferation conference can be inspired by MLK's legacy

By Chris Wood
May 3, 2010

The days preceding the opening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the UN in New York on the 3 May 2010 have been both compelling and exhausting. Many international NGOs and their supporters have been busily engaged at the 'Disarm Now' International NGO Conference at the Riverside Church in Harlem, an historic and symbolic venue for the peace movement in the US.

It was in the Riverside Church where Martin Luther King Jr gave his great speech 'Beyond Vietnam' - coming out publicly in opposition to the Vietnam War in 1967. I have been greatly inspired by the courage and the compassionate determination of Martin Luther King's nonviolent challenge to the injustices of his society, so it was a genuine privilege to be gathering in such a significant venue for an occasion as monumental as the NPT Review Conference.

Many of the speakers during the opening plenary session made connections with the significant legacy of Dr King and our current struggles for nuclear disarmament. Actor and activist Vinie Burrows reiterated the message of his speech - that the struggle against racial injustice, poverty, and war are inseparable, and that these issues represent a “poverty of the spirit” that can only be transformed through nonviolent love.

This prophetic challenge to injustice and oppression was prominent throughout the Conference and in many of the workshop sessions that I attended. Listening to the testimonies of the Hibakusha -the survivors of the horrors of the Atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it seemed to me that their accounts of living through 'hell on earth' serve as a grave warning to us of the destruction that nuclear weapons will always present if we believe that they offer us security.

The 'Disarm Now' NGO Conference received a keynote speech from the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, who pronounced nuclear disarmament to be his top priority in office and affirmed that he would call on the Nuclear Weapons States to fulfil their long overdue commitments to abolish nuclear weapons.

He emphasised that it would be essential for global citizens to call their leaders to account and after a Conference in which many fine words had been uttered, this seemed fitting.

What will be needed now is concerted action and not just rhetoric, if our vision of a nuclear free world is to be realised. And yet, for this to be truly accomplished, we will need more than conventions and treaties, but a moral revolution where real human security is valued over short-sighted national security. As Martin Luther King put it so eloquently, “it is necessary for us to love peace”.

This is one of a series of on-the-spot reports and reflections for Ekklesia from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held from 3–28 May 2010 at the United Nations in New York.

The official NPT Review Conference website can be found here:


(c) Chris Wood works for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the UK ( and also the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament ( on behalf of Quaker Peace and Social Witness (

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.