NEW YORK: “Nuclear weapons are incompatible with the values upheld by our respective faith tradition—the right of people to live in security and dignity; the commands of conscience and justice; the duty to protect the vulnerable and to exercise the stewardship that will safeguard the planet for future generations. . .”
So reads a statement calling on faith groups to speak out against nuclear weapons that was presented on May 1 at the UN Headquarters in New York as part of the official Civil Society Presentation at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference under the name of Faith Communities Concerned about the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons.
The statement is the latest in a series of interfaith initiatives which builds on earlier joint statements by faith groups issued in April and December 2014 at conferences held in Washington DC and Vienna highlighting the devastating humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
The statement has been endorsed so far by individuals from over 50 different religious groups and by prominent peace activists. It was also presented to Ambassador Taous Feroukhi, President of the NPT Review Conference on the morning of April 30. Appreciating the efforts of the joint initiative by faith communities “encompassing various religious traditions,” Ambassador Feroukhi commented, “it helps strengthen the NPT and solidarity of humanity for the shared goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.”
The statement powerfully denounces the need for nuclear weapons in today’s world and criticizes the vast amounts of resources diverted from investment in genuine human security. It reads: “There is no countervailing imperative—whether of national security, stability in international power relations, or the difficulty of overcoming political inertia—that justifies their continued existence, much less their use. . . . We urge the world’s political leaders to muster the courage needed to break the deepening spirals of mistrust that undermine the viability of human societies and threaten our shared future.”
Signatories pledge, as people of faith, to communicate within their respective faith communities the inhumane and immoral nature of nuclear weapons and the unacceptable risks they pose, and to call for the early commencement of negotiations by governments on a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons “in a forum open to all states and blockable by none.”
They call on the world’s governments to heed the voices of the world’s hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) urging the abolition of nuclear weapons, and to take concrete action leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, consistent with existing obligations under the NPT. In particular, the statement calls on states to associate themselves with the Pledge delivered by Austria at the Vienna Conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for their prohibition and elimination.
Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director of Peace Affairs for the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, one of the faith-based organizations taking a lead in drafting the statement, commented after the statement was launched: “It is a great pleasure to be able to issue an interfaith statement as a joint initiative by individuals from a wide range of faith groups on the occasion of the NPT Review Conference. We will continue to work to strengthen solidarity and unity among people of goodwill and faith regarding this issue in order to amplify voices from civil society and enable them to be heard.”
“In this statement people of different faiths remind the governments gathered at the United Nations that nuclear weapons violate the deepest values of humanity,” said Dr. Emily Welty, vice-moderator of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches. “We reject nuclear arms on political, military, economic and environmental grounds. However, it must also be understood that nuclear weapons are fundamentally immoral.”
Faith groups and individuals wishing to add their names to the statement can do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The background to the statement can be accessed here.
Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a socially-engaged Buddhist network with 12 million members around the world that promotes peace, culture and education. It has been campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons for over 50 years.