Message from World Council of Churches
August 3, 2005
The World Council of Churches and its member churches remember in thought and prayer all who perished and all who have suffered the consequences of the first atomic bombs or subsequent tests.
While most anniversaries lose importance over time, the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only becomes more important with every passing year. The reason is that the unfinished business of banning nuclear weapons has been derailed and urgently needs to be put back on track.
The bombings in 1945 were judged at the time as the ultimate indictment of the abuse of force. Yet 60 years later weapons a thousand times more fearsome are still with us and now nine states—not one—possess nuclear arms. Also today, proven remedies against the use of nuclear weapons are being eroded. Arms control treaties remain stillborn or are in neglect. The leadership required to sponsor and enforce them is
On anniversaries, history is the best teacher. The World Council of Churches has listened closely to nuclear history and shared its lessons with governments around the world.
In 1955, the WCC called for the complete elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons verified by effective inspections. In 1965, the WCC applauded the partial Test Ban Treaty, but urged that it be extended and that money spent on nuclear weapons be used to assist developing countries. In 1975, the WCC warned that deploying tactical nuclear weapons had lowered the nuclear threshold, noted that important states had not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and affirmed the treaty demilitarising space. In 1985, the WCC called governments— especially those with a unilateralist record—to make good-faith use of United Nations disarmament mechanisms, including the UN Conference on Disarmament. In 1995, the WCC urged adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Today, critical progress in each of these areas is still pending and dangerously overdue. Despite nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea, other eminently feasible measures are languishing as well—including a treaty to control the nuclear fuel cycle, a protocol to stiffen the inspection powers of the International Atomic Energy Authority, plans to pull back nuclear weapons to ‘home’ territory, and pledges never to use nuclear weapons first starting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The WCC policy is that all states together bear responsibility for the success of nuclear arms control. Governments that have said the world is more secure without nuclear weapons must bridge the gap between intransigent nuclear weapons states that have pledged to disarm on the one hand, and those reconsidering the option to seek nuclear weapons on the other.
Instead, at a month-long review conference of the all-important NPT this May, the WCC saw cracks widen in each of the treaty’s three pillars—in disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Many eyes turned from these signs of disrepair in the international community to the world’s leading nations, the original nuclear powers.
Shortly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the World Council of Churches declared that although law may require the sanction of force, the overwhelming force of modern warfare threatens the basis for law itself. Last month Hiroshima’s Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba wrote the US President about the essential alternative to using force: “The indispensable key to preventing nuclear proliferation is an international community co-operating and monitoring the situation together, not one forcibly governed by the rule of might”.
Mayors, parliamentarians and peace groups in more than 100 countries—and WCC member churches in Japan and around the world—are committed to refocusing world leaders on achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world.
On anniversaries and every day, the imperative of Hiroshima and Nagasaki allows for no alternative.
WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
Acting Director Clement John
August 3, 2005