Set a new course towards peace and away from nuclear threats

by Jennifer Philpot Nissen last modified 13 November 2017 06:14 PM
Set a new course towards peace and away from nuclear threats

Members of a WCC delegation joined with the population of Nagasaki in commemoration of the victims of nuclear war, 8 August 2015. Photo: Johannes Minkus /WCC

21 September 2017

Only a handful of “Hibakusha” – the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs – remain with us in 2017. These men and women represent a living link, eye witnesses, to the otherwise unimaginable capacities of the most deadly weapon of mass destruction ever used.

Setsuko Thurlow is one such witness and survivor who has campaigned for the total elimination of nuclear weapons all her life. “We feel it is imperative to tell the younger generation of that terrible dawn of the nuclear age… it is exceedingly painful to do this because I become overwhelmed by my memories of grotesque and massive destruction and death.”

Ms Thurlow, now approaching 90, participated in negotiations at the UN in New York this summer which led to the adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of all Nuclear Weapons, or “Ban Treaty”. Members of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, and of the Ecumenical Peace Advocacy Network of the World Council of Churches were active throughout the 3 weeks of meetings, advocating for the negotiations and for specific human-centered provisions in the treaty, of which there are many.

Dr. Emily Welty, Vice-Chair of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs described the adoption of the Treaty by 122 states as an “historic achievement which acknowledges the unconscionable suffering of those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing.” She added “The treaty sets a course to ensures that nuclear weapons will never be used under any circumstances. It has been an honour for World Council of Churches to accompany the process and to highlight the voices of the hibakusha and indigenous groups who cry out for justice.”

Since its beginnings, the World Council of Churches has advocated for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. We encourage and support member churches to become advocates for nuclear disarmament in their own countries and to remind their governments that decisions about nuclear weapons affect the safety and well-being of every person on the planet.

Absent from the negotiations were all 9 nuclear states and the 30 which seek shelter in U.S nuclear deterrence. Nuclear states argue that they would never be the first one to use such a weapon, but the refusal to disarm has led to a continued maintenance, modernization and proliferation of weapons. The consequences of such a weapon falling into the hands of violent ideologists do not bear contemplating. The diversion of resources which could be used for peaceful development has been deplorable.

These States have remained opposed to the Treaty and are now even reported to be exerting pressure on other states not to sign when the Treaty opened for signature this week.

The WCC believes that the Treaty must become an instrument for the widely shared hope of an end to all nuclear weapons, and calls upon all governments to join in signing the accord with those 50 States who signed already on September 20th.  We stand in solidarity with Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha in their reflection that “We survivors have no doubt that this treaty can and will change the world”.