Message on the 60th Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
WCC/CCIA, 3 August, 2005
The World Council of Churches and its member churches remember in thought
and prayer all who perished and all who have suffered the consequences of the
first atomic bombs or subsequent tests.
While most anniversaries lose importance over time, the anniversary of the atomic
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only becomes more important with every
passing year. The reason is that the unfinished business of banning nuclear weapons
has been derailed and urgently needs to be put back on track.
The bombings in 1945 were judged at the time as the ultimate indictment of the
abuse of force. Yet 60 years later weapons a thousand times more fearsome are
still with us and now nine states - not one - possess nuclear arms. Also today,
proven remedies against the use of nuclear weapons are being eroded. Arms control
treaties remain stillborn or are in neglect. The leadership required to sponsor
and enforce them is absent.
On anniversaries, history is the best teacher. The World Council of Churches has
listened closely to nuclear history and shared its lessons with governments around
In 1955, the WCC called for the complete elimination and prohibition of nuclear
weapons verified by effective inspections. In 1965, the WCC applauded the partial
Test Ban Treaty, but urged that it be extended and that money spent on nuclear
weapons be used to assist developing countries. In 1975, the WCC warned that
deploying tactical nuclear weapons had lowered the nuclear threshold, noted that
important states had not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
and affirmed the treaty demilitarizing space. In 1985, the WCC called governments
- especially those with a unilateralist record - to make good-faith use of
United Nations disarmament mechanisms, including the UN Conference on
Disarmament. In 1995, the WCC urged adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear
Test Ban Treaty.
Today, critical progress in each of these areas is still pending and dangerously
overdue. Despite nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea, other eminently feasible
measures are languishing as well - including a treaty to control the nuclear
fuel cycle, a protocol to stiffen the inspection powers of the International Atomic
Energy Authority, plans to pull back nuclear weapons to home' territory, and
pledges never to use nuclear weapons first, starting with the five permanent members
of the UN Security Council.
The WCC policy is that all states together bear responsibility for the success of
nuclear arms control. Governments that have said the world is more secure without
nuclear weapons must bridge the gap between intransigent nuclear weapons
states that have pledged to disarm on the one hand, and those reconsidering the
option to seek nuclear weapons on the other.
Instead, at a month-long review conference of the all-important NPT this May,
the WCC saw cracks widen in each of the treaty's three pillars - in disarmament,
non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Many eyes turned from
these signs of disrepair in the international community to the world's leading
nations, the original nuclear powers.
Shortly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the World Council of Churches declared
that although law may require the sanction of force, the overwhelming force of
modern warfare threatens the basis for law itself. Last month Hiroshima's Mayor
Tadatoshi Akiba wrote the US President about the essential alternative to using
force: "The indispensable key to preventing nuclear proliferation is an international
community cooperating and monitoring the situation together, not one
forcibly governed by the rule of might."
Mayors, parliamentarians and peace groups in more than 100 countries - and
WCC member churches in Japan and around the world - are committed to refocusing
world leaders on achieving a nuclear weapons-free world.
On anniversaries and every day, the imperative of Hiroshima and Nagasaki allows
for no alternative.