Nuclear Non-proliferation was the second focal topic of the World Council of Churches UN Advocacy week, No. 15-17, 2004. Gathering at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York, where next May, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be re-evaluated, speakers encouraged the attendees to make NPT advocacy and education a priority in their churches.
"We must continue the work that has gone before, when church leaders were active in capturing the imagination of the people in hoping for a world without nuclear weapons, and congregations were actively standing up for nuclear disarmament,"said Victor Hsu, a senior advisor with Church World Service.
"People don’t feel the threat [of nuclear war], especially the younger generation," said Choice Ufuoma Okoro, originally from Nigeria and now working with the United Church of Canada.
The WCC, the world’s largest ecumenical body created shortly after the close of the second world war, had advocated against nuclear arms for decades. In its most recent statement pertaining to the NPT, the WCC executive committee reaffirmed that “the only ultimate protection against nuclear weapons is their total elimination” in February 2004. Meanwhile, in March, a WCC delegation visited a series of NATO non-nuclear states to argue for alternatives to nuclear deterrence.
The Nov. 16 public seminar on the “Churches’ quest for a nuclear arms-free world” reflected the longtime stance of the church body.
Speakers at the seminar included the UN undersecretary general for Disarmament, Nobuyasu Abe, the secretary-general of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (Blix Commission), Ambassador Henrik Sahlander, and the executive director of the Canadian organization Project Ploughshares, Dr Ernie Regehr.
According to the WCC, “the speakers were able to provide current information on the status of the NPT, and to place the role of the churches and other civil society actors within the context of the global political situation.”
"Nuclear weapons contradict the very notion of life that churches hold sacred," said Henrik Sahlander. "Churches can work from this perspective to revive the work against nuclear weapons and advocate for support of the non-proliferation treaty."
"There are memorials in Nagasaki and Hiroshima that are very important to the Japanese people, but now the numbers of visitors to these memorials are declining, and this is tragic to me and my fellow Japanese citizens," said Nobuyasu Abe. "We must remind political leaders of the world to remember the effects of these bombs. Unfortunately this memory is fading."