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Faith Communities Urge Geneva Conference to Pave the Path to a Nuclear-Weapons- Free World

By Jamshed Baruah

GENEVA (IDN) – Diverse faith-based organizations and individuals are appealing to States gathered at the UN in Geneva to spare the world a nuclear catastrophe and foster sustainable development for the good of humanity affirming moral and ethical imperatives.

Twenty groups and individuals from different faiths, including Christian, Quaker, Muslim and Hindu traditions and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) tabled an interfaith statement on April 25 as one of the civil society presentations during the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference at the UN Office in Geneva. [P 03]  JAPANESE TEXT VERSION  PDF

The joint statement read by Hayley Ramsay-Jones of SGI on behalf of Faith Communities Concerned about Nuclear Weapons, calls for "concrete and measurable results" in line with all elements of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and "toward the shared goal of a world free from nuclear weapons," leading up to the 2020 Review Conference.

The lay Buddhist organization SGI has been engaged in efforts to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons for over sixty years.

The endorsees of the joint statement call to minds the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. "Since then, humankind has been forced to live in the shadow of apocalyptic destruction," reads the joint statement and warns: "Any use of nuclear weapons would not only destroy the past fruits of human civilization, it would disfigure the present and consign future generations to the grimmest of fates."

As people of faith, the endorsees of the joint statement, advocate for the right of all people to live in security and dignity, seek to heed the commands of conscience and the call to justice, and they are united in the determination to protect the vulnerable and to exercise the stewardship that will safeguard Earth for present and future generations.

The statement goes on to say: "Nuclear weapons profoundly violate all these values and commitments. We can never accept a conception of security that privileges the concerns of any state or nation over the good of the human and planetary whole. The horrific destructiveness of nuclear weapons makes their abolition the only path to authentic human security."

As people of faith, the diverse faith-based organizations and individuals urge States gathered at the UN in Geneva until May 4, 2018 to:

- Heed the voices of the world’s hibakusha (all the victims of nuclear weapons) and recommit to the unequivocal undertaking to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons, noting that the fundamental justification for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is the prevention of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of such weapons.

- Recognize that all effective measures are mutually reinforcing and advancement in each area supports advancement in others. The entry into force of the TPNW; the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); halting the production and eliminating global stockpiles of fissile materials (FMT); irreversibly dismantling global nuclear weapon production architecture; ending programs designed to increase the accuracy and versatility and lower the threshold for use of nuclear weapons; preventing a new nuclear arms race; and eliminating nuclear weapon stockpiles, among other effective measures, are global undertakings, fully compatible with and contributing to the realization of the objectives and commitments of the NPT.

- Recognize that there are core prohibitions common to the NPT and the TPNW such as those against the transfer of nuclear weapons, against assisting other states in acquiring nuclear weapons, etc., which can be supported regardless of a state’s position toward the TPNW.

With this in view, the joint statement encourages all States "to engage in constructive dialogue regarding the strengthening of such prohibitions as a concrete and practical step toward fulfilling the obligation of all States parties to the NPT to pursue and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament."

The significance of this impassioned call is underlined by the fact that the nuclear disarmament agenda remains stalled. The Trump administration's Nuclear Posture Review refers to plans to produce new types of nuclear weapons, including those that could lower the threshold to use.

Such actions stand in direct opposition to commitments made in the previous NPT review conferences, avers the joint statement, and adds: "Nuclear modernization plans alone are slated to absorb resources on a scale that, redirected, could greatly advance progress toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals: providing the basic necessities, protecting the environment, enhancing the health of women and girls and the future generations, and reducing the risks of wars and tensions around the world."

The statement read out during the April 23-May 4 session of the PrepCom is the ninth of its kind since 2014. The Faith Communities Concerned about Nuclear Weapons issued previous interfaith statements on the occasion of international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons from 2014 to 2016. Statements were also issued during the first PrepCom in Vienna in May 2017 and on the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York in July 2017.

Commenting the April 25 statement, Pax Christi’s International Representative Jonathan Frerichs said: "We now have the opportunity to help bring the TPNW into force. Each signature and each ratification of the treaty deepens the stigma and the illegitimacy surrounding nuclear weapons."

SGI Executive Director for Peace and Global Issues Kazuo Ishiwatari added: "The role of faith communities is to offer people opportunities to reflect on their values and ways of thinking. Citizens need to be willing to make decisions to ensure that their national security does not rely on nuclear weapons."

He also submitted SGI's official statement to Ambassador Adam Bugajski of Poland, Chair of the second session of the Preparatory Committee, on April 25. Ambassador Bugajski expressed his appreciation for the efforts made by civil society.

As the second session of the PrepCom is the first venue for debate and deliberation with the participation of non-nuclear-weapon, nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states since the adoption of the TPNW in July 2017, SGI has urged the States parties to engage in constructive dialogue and produce concrete results in line with the NPT’s ultimate goal of a world free from nuclear weapons, and to continue to heed the voices of civil society, especially the world’s hibakusha.

The joint statement was endorsed by: All Souls Nuclear Disarmament Task Force; Anthony Donovan; Beverley Johnstone (Pax Christi International), Bruce Knotts, Director, United Nations Office, Unitarian Universalist; Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Ela Gandhi, Gandhi Development Trust; The Franciscan Action Network; and Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues, Soka Gakkai International.

The joint statement was also endorsed by: Malik Mujahid, Sound Vision; Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Muslim Peace Fellowship, Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia, President, World Bosniak Congress; PAX; Pax Christi Australia; Pax Christi International; Pax Christi USA; Unitarian Universalist Association; The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; and the World Council of Churches. [IDN-InDepthNews – 29 April 2018]

Photo source: LankaNewsWeb

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