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“A consistent light” guides the way toward a world free from nuclear weapons

“A consistent light” guides the way toward a world free from nuclear weapons

©L'Osservatore Romano

14 November 2017

How sustainable is a stability based on fear? As advocates posed the question this week, they acknowledged unprecedented support for a nuclear weapons ban, support that has been growing among religious leaders, state officials and a world growing weary of living in fear.

Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), reflected that fear has guided global and human relations for more than 70 years. “The powerful created nuclear weapons to control the world, but it’s clear that the weapons have controlled us. They have guided every step of geopolitics, and continue to be the driver of conflict between the great powers. Nuclear weapons have pinned leaders into corners… and weighed noble ideals and bold plans for peace down with words like deterrence and détente.”

Through these dark decades, people of faith have been a consistent light, she added, “a constant voice pulling us back from the brink of annihilation, a steady guide out of this prison of fear we created.”

Fihn was among 400 clergy, diplomats, campaigners and Nobel laureates gathered in the Vatican on 10-11 November for a conference during which Pope Francis gave what many experts consider a ground-breaking pontifical critique of nuclear weapons. “The threat of use [of nuclear weapons], as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” Pope Francis said.

“This a potentially historic moment for faith-based engagement in nuclear disarmament”, said Dr Emily Welty, vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (WCC-CCIA).

Welty noted that in condemning not only the use but also the possession of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis “has moved the position of the Catholic Church on nuclear disarmament forward in a very significant way. By linking possession, use and the threat of use, Pope Francis has set a new framework for Catholic debate and action over nuclear weapons.”

A “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” (TPNW), which was adopted at the United Nations in July, bans the possession, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, and was cited in this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award to ICAN. The WCC, which has been advocating for nuclear disarmament for most of its almost 70-year history, has been an active participant in ICAN since 2010.

The Holy See was the first state to ratify the TPNW when it was opened for signature and ratification on 20 September. So far, 53 states have signed the treaty, and three have taken the further step of ratification.

According to Welty, “the Holy See’s signature and ratification of the treaty should energize and motivate all of us to urge our own countries to join this important and inspiring moment by advocating for signature and ratification in our own contexts.”


Nobel prize-winner ICAN says it will work for full nuclear ban

Banning nuclear weapons, 122 governments take leadership where nuclear powers have failed (WCC press release, 8 July 2017)

WCC Statement towards a Nuclear-free World

Download the ICAN statement on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize