World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

6. Minute on elimination of nuclear arms

The following report was presented to and received by the Assembly. Its resolutions were proposed by the Public Issues Committee and approved by the Assembly through consensus. Dissent expressed by Assembly delegates is recorded as endnotes.

23 February 2006

The following report was presented to and received by the Assembly.
Its resolutions were proposed by the Public Issues Committee and approved by the Assembly through consensus.
Dissent expressed by Assembly delegates is recorded as endnotes.

1. Speaking out of love for the world and in obedience to the God of all life, we raise our voice again with convictions the church has held since nuclear weapons were used six decades ago.

2. In the nuclear age, God who is slow to anger and abounding in mercy has granted humanity many days of grace. Through the troubled years of the Cold War and into the present time, it has become clear that, in this as in other ways, God has saved us from ourselves. Although many were and are deceived, God is not mocked (Gal 6:7). If vengeance in daily life is for God (Rom 12:19), surely the vengeance of nuclear holocaust 4 is not for human hands.Our place is to labour for life with God.

3. Churches are not alone in upholding the sanctity of life. One shared principle of world religions is greater than all weapons of mass destruction and stronger than any ‘balance of terror': we must do to others what we would have them do to us. Because we do not want nuclear weapons used against us, our nation cannot use nuclear weapons against others. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki there is uranium within the golden rule.

4. Indeed, governments in the year 2000 made an "unequivocal undertaking" to meet their obligations and eliminate all nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

5. Yet instead of progress there is crisis. The basic and compelling bargain at the heart of the treaty is being broken. The five recognised nuclear powers, who pledged "the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals" under the NPT, are now finding new military and political roles for nuclear arms instead. The other 184 states in the treaty pledged never to have nuclear weapons. If the bargain to eliminate nuclear weapons is being broken, they for their part may have an incentive to seek the weapons too. When states with the biggest conventional arsenals insist for their security on also having nuclear weapons, states with smaller arsenals will feel less secure and do the same. It must be recognized as well that external political and military pressure can provoke countries to pursue nuclear weapons. In short, there is nuclear proliferation now despite the NPT.

6. As more states acquire nuclear arms the risk of nuclear weapons falling into non-state hands increases—just when it is an international imperative to wisely overcome the violence of terrorism. Nuclear arms do not deter non-state agents and nuclear action against them would cause gross slaughter while shattering international law and morality. These are scenarios the parties to the NPT are obligated to prevent.

7. On the question of morality, all people of faith are needed in our day to expose the fallacies of nuclear doctrine. These hold, for example, that weapons of mass destruction are agents of stability; that governments have nuclear arms so they will never use them; and that there is a role in the human affairs of this small planet for a bomb more powerful than all the weapons ever used. With our aging sisters and brothers who survived atomic bombs in Japan and tests in the Pacific and former Soviet Union, and as people emerging from a century of genocides and global wars, we are bound to confront these follies before it is too late.

8. Churches must prevail upon governments until they recognize the incontrovertible immorality of nuclear weapons.

9. From its birth as a fellowship of Christian churches the WCC has condemned nuclear weapons for their "widespread and indiscriminate destruction" and as "sin against God" in modern war (First WCC Assembly, 1948), recognised early that the only sure defence against nuclear weapons is prohibition, elimination and verification (Second Assembly, 1954) and, inter alia, called citizens to "press their governments to ensure national security without resorting to the use of weapons of mass destruction" (Fifth Assembly, 1975).

10. Existing WCC policy urges all states to meet their treaty obligations to reduce and then destroy nuclear arsenals with adequate verification. Our position is that the five original nuclear weapons states (in alphabetical order: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) must pledge never to be the first to use nuclear weapons, never threaten any use, and remove their weapons from high alert status and from the territory of non-nuclear states. WCC policy calls the three states that have not signed the NPT (India, Israel, Pakistan), the one that has withdrawn (North Korea) and the one threatening to withdraw (Iran), respectively, to join the treaty as non-nuclear states, to make a fully verifiable return and not to withdraw (WCC Executive Committee Statement on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 19.02.04; WCC Central Committee Statement on Nuclear Disarmament, NATO Policy and the Churches, 05.02.01). These measures have broad support across the international community, yet they remain undone.

Resolution:

The Ninth Assembly, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brasil, 14-23 February 2006:

a) Adopts the minute on the Elimination of Nuclear Arms;

b) Calls each member church to urge its own government to pursue the unequivocal elimination of nuclear weapons under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Governments that have decided to abstain from developing nuclear weapons should be affirmed; states that are not signatories of NPT must be pressed to sign the treaty as non-nuclear states.

c) Urges churches to work to overcome the ignorance and complacency in society concerning the nuclear threat, especially to raise awareness in generations with no memory of what these weapons do.

d) Strongly recommends that, until the goal of nuclear disarmament is achieved, member churches prevail upon their governments to take collective responsibility for making international nuclear disarmament machinery work including mechanisms to verify compliance, for securing nuclear weapons and weapons-useable material from non-state actors, and for supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency in its critical mission of monitoring fissile material and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

e) Calls on member churches and parishes to mobilise their membership to support and strengthen Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, which are established in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa and are proposed for other inhabited regions of the earth; and especially commends churches to engage other religions and to advocate for these zones during the WCC ‘Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace - 2001-2010'.

 


 

4 Dissent was registered from Rev. Helga Rudolf, delegate of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania, concerning the theological implications of the expression "nuclear holocaust". She feels that the word "holocaust" is being used without awareness of its original Biblical meaning as a burnt offering to God. She would have preferred to say "nuclear disaster", thus avoiding this misunderstanding and taking responsibility for our use of language.