Faith groups’ dismay at UK boycott of UN disarmament meeting

By Agencies
May 16, 2016

The UN Open-ended Working Group has completed its second session  (13 May 2016) on working out how to bring in new treaties that could lead to multi-lateral disarmament. This intergovernmental meeting was endorsed by the UN General Assembly and is supported by 138 nations. It is being boycotted by the UK Government.

In 1968 a deal was struck and the five countries including the UK who already possessed the bomb promised to work towards complete disarmament and in return the other states promised not to develop their own nuclear weapons. However, 48 years later the UK is planning to buy a new generation of nuclear armed submarines and our commitment to disarmament appears hollow.  

Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima survivor and Nobel Peace Prize nominee after speaking to MPs in Parliament on 12 May, addressed a group of people from various faith backgrounds.  “When at last the rest of the world is now open to talking about nuclear weapons the UK and the US stay away and don’t show up.  I am more than disappointed, I am angry”.

In March 2016, senior faith leaders from all of the major UK faith groups, from the former Archbishop of Canterbury to the Chairperson of the Hindu Council UK,called on the UK Government to join with others “to develop a robust plan of action that will lead us to a world free of nuclear weapons”.  The UK Government must support a new Nuclear Ban Treaty alongside other measures that will lead nuclear weapons states to take steps down the nuclear ladder, says the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.

The Rev Steve Wild, President of the Methodist Conference, commented: "It is now time to take disarmament seriously.  Agreement on a verifiable and effective treaty leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons would demonstrate our faith in co-operation over threat, hope over fear, life over death.  As people of faith we believe that threat of use of weapons of mass destruction is inherently wrong regardless of who holds them.  The continued use of this threat by the UK is unnecessary and counterproductive."

Dr Jill Barber, Vice President of the Methodist Church, said: "It is shameful that our government has voted against the process that is currently taking place within the United Nations.  Although we have a UK Disarmament Ambassador based in Geneva, the UK chose not to be present in vital discussions taking place in that same city. The credibility of the UK's commitment to multilateral disarmament is being seriously dented.  Our government cannot hold back progress on the introduction of a nuclear ban treaty."

* Read the faith leaders' call for an end to nuclear weapons here

* Joint Public Issues Team http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/

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