Christian peace groups urge UK participation in UN nuclear talks

Are you ready to ban nuclear weapons? Image courtesy of ICAN

Are you ready to ban nuclear weapons? Image courtesy of ICAN

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a member of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations, which released the following press release on Monday 19th June 2017. 

Over 130 countries are continuing negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons entirely.

A second round of meetings began in New York on 15 June to draft a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. If approved, this treaty would make it illegal to “develop, produce, manufacture or otherwise acquire”, to use nuclear weapons. The ban treaty is strongly supported by, among others, the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the World Medical Association, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

“It is a tragedy and we believe a gross failure of duty, that the UK Government will take no part in these meetings, despite pleas and lobbying for months in advance of the meetings”, said Philip Austin of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. “The permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the UK, have a responsibility to move the world beyond fear.”

Negotiations have been boycotted by all existing nuclear weapons states, as well as many countries which have nuclear weapons located on their soil. In a joint statement the UK and USA argued that existing treaties provide a framework for disarmament, but other countries have moved ahead with the talks because they have not seen ‘good faith’ efforts by nuclear states to disarm.

In a joint statement, the Methodists, Baptists, United Reformed Church, Church of Scotland and Quakers said: “We believe that the possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons is a sin against God and humanity. We repent of our complacency in allowing this state of affairs to continue for so long … We affirm that the trillions of dollars being squandered on these weapons are, in the words of President Dwight D Eisenhower, ‘a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed’.”

A nuclear weapons ban would mirror the existing bans on other inhumane weapons systems, such as biological and chemical weapons. Negotiations are covering not just the outlawing of nuclear weapons, but also how to monitor and verify compliance. International bans and treaties of this kind have had huge moral and legal significance in creating peace in our world.

Pope Francis, in his message to the March gathering which started the process stated “the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative. A concrete approach should promote a reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond fear and isolationism in many debates today.”