Taking a courageous step towards nuclear abolition

Taking a courageous step towards nuclear abolition

Negotiations on the second day of the NPT conference here in New York provided both glimpses of hope and cause for frustration.

The non-Nuclear Weapons State Germany made the very encouraging declaration to the assembly that they want to see NATO endorsed US nuclear weapons stationed there to be removed, a measure that would certainly build confidence for further US-Russian negotiations.

Disappointingly however, so far the Nuclear Weapons States have offered nothing new to the usual rhetoric of preventing non-proliferation and justifying their retention of nuclear arms on the grounds of national security. China, whilst emphasising their no-first use policy against non-Nuclear Weapons States, said they would keep a minimum number of weapons necessary to maintain a credible deterrent.

If we are to move beyond this rhetoric we need to see all the delegates to the NPT have the courage to take bold steps towards a comprehensive programme for total nuclear disarmament. One such step towards this would be the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free-Zone in the Middle East, passed as a resolution at the 1995 Review Conference and including both Israel and Iran, and has been an important common theme of the declarations delivered so far. For this to be realised, the influence of the US to urge Israel to come within the framework of the NPT and submit to verification of their nuclear programme will be essential, difficult as this may seem.

The reality is that significant progress needs to be made at this conference if we are to avoid further proliferation and the dangers that this represents. This message of urgency was reinforced as I listened to the testimony of a Hibakusha, or survivor, of the Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, who lost many members of his family in the attack.

Yet if we are to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again, we must recognise that the moral and political dimensions of disarmament are inseparable. People of faith must also be bold, and raise their voice amongst the peace movement, having the resolution to stand for the values of peace and social justice that are inherent in so many religious traditions.

It was a privilege to listen to a speech from Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, as he read his joint statement with the Bishop of Hiroshima for President Obama to "Take a courageous step towards a the total abolition of nuclear weapons".

The Archbishop poignantly affirmed: “How sad and foolish it is to abuse the progress that humanity has made in the fields of science and technology in order to destroy lives as extensively and swiftly as possible, and to earn more profit by producing weapons!”

Indeed, the Archbishop went beyond this, stating that it concerned him that so many Christians had misunderstood the nonviolent message of Jesus to tackle poverty and social injustice. He indicated that if Christians are to follow this message, political engagement is necessary to help to realise a better world where all of God's children can flourish.

We should take heed of this message, recognising that the indiscriminate destruction represented by nuclear weapons cannot be a part of God's purpose for creation, and live out the faith we profess to work and pray for a just and sustainable future.

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: http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2010/

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(c) Chris Wood works for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the UK (http://www.cnduk.org/) and also the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (http://ccnd.gn.apc.org/) on behalf of Quaker Peace and Social Witness (http://www.quaker.org.uk/qpsw).

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