by Beth Blissman
On 7 July 2020 we noted the three year anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). I remember that the excitement in the room was palpable that day, when 122 of the 193 countries of the United Nations voted to prohibit the development, testing, production, possession, stockpiling, use (or threat of use) of nuclear weapons. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after at least 50 countries have formally accepted it (i.e. deposited an instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession). Currently, 40 states have ratified the treaty, with the most recent country being Botswana, who ratified on 15 July 2020. (See the text of the treaty and more information here: http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/tpnw/text )
However, none of the “nuclear nine” even took part in the treaty negotiations, and have no intention of either signing or ratifying the treaty, which limits its effectiveness. (Treaties do not typically apply to countries who have not chosen to ratify them, although the treaty will definitely serve as a moral statement of a majority of countries at the United Nations.)
Next month, It will have been 75 years since our country, the United States of America, dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. An organization called the Faith Communities Concerned about Nuclear Weapons drafted a joint interfaith statement, to speak in one voice to reject the existential threat to humanity that nuclear weapons pose. These two paragraphs from the statement summarize our current need to evolve beyond weapons of mass destruction:
We lament the racism and colonialism that drove the nuclear-weapon States to test their weapons on the communities that they deemed expendable, lives far away from their own, lives that mattered less, lives that were taken in pursuit of destructive power for a few. We acknowledge the immense suffering, oppression and exploitation faced by the Indigenous communities around the world whose bodies, lands, waters and air have served as the testing grounds for the ambitions of those who dominate with force.
Few who believe in the disingenuous notion of nuclear deterrence have witnessed or experienced the devastation of these weapons in their own communities. After seventy-five years we can see that nuclear weapons have not brought an end to war. Nuclear weapons do not create peace, rather they intensify the scourge and threat of war in our world, lives and communities. Because they are designed to cause massive and indiscriminate destruction, because they siphon precious resources that are needed to meet human needs and protect our shared planet, and because they enforce and sustain a global system based on domination and unending violence, the existence of nuclear weapons fundamentally contradicts the principles of any moral, religious and ethical system that values life.
Earlier this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted that humanity is the closest we have ever been to a potential catastrophe from climate change or nuclear weapons use – this could have a devastating impact on civilization. More recently, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has erupted, further heightening tensions between nuclear-armed States. The US Senate has authorized funding for resumed nuclear tests and the few nuclear arms controls that still exist are being further eroded. We believe that 75 years of nuclear weapons is 75 years too many!
There will be many events in the next few weeks recognizing the lives that were lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and promoting a world free of nuclear weapons. Please consider taking part in one of these virtual events or initiatives at national and international levels to reduce the risks of nuclear catastrophe, and help garner support from legislators, civil society members and like-minded governments around the world:
Please feel free to invite family, friends and colleagues from other faith groups working on nuclear weapons issues to consider attending these events as well, and please watch our Loretto at the UN social media outlets ( Facebook: @LorettoUN – Instagram: @loretto_un – Twitter: @LorettoAtTheUN – Website: http://lorettoattheun.org/ ) for upcoming events to support the campaign to free the world from nuclear weapons.