The chief executive of the National Council of Churches joined with other religious, scientific and medical communities to call for a halt to the post-Cold War nuclear arms race, at a March 8 event in Washington. The call followed the March 1 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of an H-bomb test in the Marshall Islands.
"As people of faith, who care deeply for God's creation … we call on our government and the Bush administration to take leadership in global nuclear disarmament," NCC Chief Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar said. "We must ask ourselves why we continue to construct weapons that have the power to destroy us, rather than build systems and structures that will save lives and help all persons reach the potential for which God created them."
Helen Caldicott of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and Howard Hallman of Methodists United for Peace with Justice also took part in the Washington event.
Rev. Edgar mentioned the visit to the Marshall island just one week prior. He and other participants to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Operation Bravo, March 1 1954, urged the United States to lead by world in eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
The following is Dr. Edgar’s March 8 statement, as released by the National Council of Churches:
STATEMENT ABOUT NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar
General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
March 8, 2004
Last week I returned from the Marshall Islands, where I witnessed first hand the devastation nuclear weapons can unleash. You may remember that between 1946 and 1958 more than 65 nuclear tests were carried out in the Pacific Islands by the U.S. government. After 50 years the people there continue to live with the physical, emotional and spiritual scars, along with the environmental hazards, that nuclear testing brought.
Death, cancer and other diseases, and dislocation have resulted from this testing. Perhaps we still do not know the full extent of the damage that has been done. However, what we do know is that it is time for global nuclear disarmament to become a reality. It is morally wrong and environmentally detrimental.
As people of faith, who care deeply for God's Creation including the people whom God created to enjoy it and to be faithful stewards over it, we call on our government and the Bush Administration to take leadership in global nuclear disarmament. We must ask ourselves why we continue to construct weapons that have the power to destroy us, rather than build systems and structures that will save lives and help all persons reach the potential for which God created them. I believe that the same expertise and know-how that was used to build weapons of mass destruction can be used to build bridges of hope. If we have the power and the will to create something that could annihilate all of humankind, surely we can summon the will to provide adequate and affordable health care to every American. Surely, we can find ways to support public education and our children. I know that we can find ways to live a more peaceful and harmonious existence. But it must start with us. We must first have the courage to lead the way internationally, knowing that others will follow our lead.
Being the world's only superpower comes with responsibility. For to whom much is given, much is required. What is required is that we use our status to make the world a better and safer place for generations to come. What is required is that we recognize what we do for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, we do for God, as we are taught in Matthew 25:40. What is required is that we take a stand for what is right and just. What is required is that we take a stand so that we no longer live under a cloud of fear that one day the world, and all the people in it, will be destroyed by nuclear weapons. We, at the National Council of Churches, along with others in the faith community, are committed to continue to work tirelessly to make sure the madness of the nuclear arms race ends and instead, peace and justice prevail.
The following is the statement from U.S. participants in the February 27-March 1 anniversary event in Majuro, Marshall Islands, as released by the NCC:
After 50 Years: A Statement from Feb. 27-March 1, 2004, Commemoration of Operation Bravo
What we do unto the least of these, our brothers and sisters, we do unto God.
-- Based on Matthew 25:40
We speak as leaders and representatives of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church who have participated in the 50th anniversary commemoration of Operation Bravo, the March 1, 1954, atmospheric test of the H-Bomb on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
We have traveled here to listen to the survivors of Operation Bravo and the 66 other nuclear tests carried out between 1946 and 1958 in the Pacific Islands by our government and to remember their stories. The result of these blasts has been death, cancer, disease, and dislocation. What has been done cannot be undone, but our churches have long been pledged to work for justice for the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands so that they may be compensated for the personal and property loss they have experienced these many years.
To the survivors of the 67 nuclear bomb tests:
With humility, as disciples of Jesus Christ we express our own sorrow and contrition for the horrendous acts carried out against you by our government and commit to you that we will work to secure an official apology and just financial compensation to you from the United States.
To our government:
It is morally right and proper for our government to issue an official apology for the horrors perpetrated on the innocent people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. We encourage the Congress to hold public hearings as soon as possible in both the Republic of the Marshall Islands and in Washington to consider the changed circumstances that warrant continued federal action on behalf of the people of those affected by the nuclear tests.
We urge the President and Congress to view the world as our friend and not our enemy. Repenting of our national sins and asking forgiveness is a sign of strength, not weakness. Further, we call on our government to halt production of our weapons of mass destruction as an example of leadership for the entire world.
To others present this weekend who have been victimized by military actions of the United States:
We are grateful to join with representatives of the people of Vieques, Hawaii, and Japan who have themselves experienced conventional and nuclear bombing by the United States. We applaud your courage and determination to reclaim your lands and restore peace and harmony and wholeness following death and destruction.
Operation Bravo was ironically named. There was nothing heroic about it 50 years ago as a yet larger and more powerful weapon of mass destruction. It was a sad day for God's Creation. We do say, however, a heart-felt Bravo! to the survivors of the nuclear tests. Bravo to all those who have experienced suffering, disease, pain, loss, and the death of loved ones with inordinate grace! Bravo to the millions who resist the madness of the nuclear arms race and stand with these courageous people to bring peace and justice and an end to war. We pledge to work to see this will happen never again.