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The NGO Perspective

Mr. Chairman and delegates to the 1998 session of the NPT Preparatory Committee, we in the community of non-governmental organizations greatly appreciate the opportunity to appear before you and provide information on vital issues that are on your agenda.  My role is to offer some ideas by the Religious Working Group for Nuclear Abolition.

You meet at a propitious time. With a new millennium rapidly approaching, the people of this planet would like to enter the new century free from the threat of nuclear holocaust.  In the next two weeks you delegates here assembled have a great opportunity to take decisive action to set the course for the abolition of all nuclear weapons on Earth.

The moral grounds for nuclear abolition are expressed in a statement by Godfried Cardinal

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1998 NPT Index

Danneels and Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser , which you have received.  Their words reflect a broad consensus within the world's religious community.  They state:

Nuclear weapons, whether used or threatened, are grossly evil and morally wrong.  As an instrument of mass destruction, nuclear weapons slaughter the innocent and ravage the environment. ...As an instrument of deterrence, nuclear weapons hold innocent people hostage for political and military purposes.  Therefore, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence is morally corrupt.

This view stems from a belief in the sanctity of life, a perspective shared by other world religions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.

I believe that most of you today, who come from different faiths, in your heart of hearts, in the deep recesses of your mind, also understand the moral depravity of nuclear weapons.  The challenge to you is to let your moral judgment guide your actions.

A statement developed by religious leaders in the Czech Republic for this conference offers a pair of reasons for the total rejection of nuclear weapons: first, the threat to Creation and, second, the contribution to moral degradation.

"Nuclear weapons," say the Czechs,  "fundamentally differ from all other weapons because of their potential to destroy all life on this planet.  They are terminal in relation to Nature.  They can destroy the divine Creation....They take from God the sole power to end the created order, and thus usurp the divine prerogative....Nuclear weapons stand condemned because they can destroy 'the sacred gift of life' and are thus innately demonic and blasphemous."

Secondly, the Czech statement notes,  "The terrible suffering caused by nuclear weapons, their potential for total destruction, and their perversion of the fundamental nature of matter have contributed immeasurably to the moral degradation of humanity in our time."  This moral decline has escalated from the mass slaughter of World War I to the Nazi concentration camps to the mass bombing of cities in World War II to the development of nuclear weapons and their use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1945.  Since then, "the East-West nuclear confrontation with the readiness of states to commit global genocide further hugely contributed to the moral de-sensitization of our age, now so evident in many aspects of contemporary life."

From an ethical perspective, Judge Mohammed Bedjaoui, when he was president of the International Court of Justice, stated: "The nuclear weapon, the ultimate evil, destabilizes humanitarian law which is the law of lesser evil.  The existence of nuclear weapons is therefore a challenge to the very existence of humanitarian law, not to mention their long-term effects of damage to the human environment, in respect to which the right to life must be exercised."

Judge Bedjaoui spoke in connection with an unanimous ruling by the International Court of Justice that under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control."

Note the words "good faith", two terms with deep religious meaning.  In this context they refer to basic honesty, to abiding by one's commitment. You delegates have it within your goodness to act decisively on behalf of all us: humans, animals, plants, the whole community of life.  We have faith that you will show yourself worthy of this trust.

Even if no other nuclear bomb is exploded, the Earth will remain scarred by the nuclear weapons era.   Earth and its people have suffered grave harm in the mining of fissionable material, in production of nuclear warheads with the byproduct of radioactive waste,  and through nuclear testing in the atmosphere and below the ground.

Beyond harm to people and environmental damage, nuclear weapons have taken an enormous economic toll.  Since the 1940s the nuclear weapon states have spent more than $8 trillion to develop, test, produce, transport, deploy, and safeguard their nuclear arsenal.  This vast waste of resources brings to mind the words of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a former general, words deemed so important that they are engraved beside his tomb in Abilene, Kansas.  " Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed....This is not a way of life at all....Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

 The great irony is that the nuclear weapon states through these vast expenditures have failed to produce the security they seek.  Indeed, it is their own people who are at greatest risk due to their doctrine of mutually assured destruction.  Citizens of the allies of nuclear weapon states are themselves vulnerable to nuclear attack because of the military doctrine of the nuclear powers.  Any other nation gaining nuclear weapons would join the ranks of the insecure.

Tragically the nuclear weapon states and their allies are victims of a self-imposed and self-destructive addiction to nuclear weapons.  Yes, an addiction.   Like many other addictions cure can come in two ways.

First, the addicted can exercise self-will, can renounce the addictive substance or orientation, and can through great determination and inner strength free itself from the addiction that is sapping its vitality. In this case, the nuclear weapon states can say individually or join together in a covenant that says, "We renounce the use of nuclear weapons for war-fighting purposes.  We renounce nuclear deterrence as an instrument of foreign and military policy."  Renunciation would remove the fundamental blockage to carrying out a series of actions that lead to nuclear abolition.  Other speakers on this program will describe the steps that can be taken along this road.

Second, friends of the addicted can apply "tough love".  They can talk firmly and insist that the addicted take the necessary steps leading out of addiction.   In the matter at hand, you delegates from non-nuclear weapon states can exercise tough love by insisting that the nuclear powers embark upon a course of action that moves toward nuclear abolition.  You can even develop a plan in the form of a nuclear weapons convention to outlaw and abolish nuclear weapons.  Even if you are part of a political bloc with one or more nuclear weapon states, true friendship requires you to apply tough love by acting independently and supporting measures leading to nuclear abolition.   Beyond that, each and every one of you has a higher loyalty to all of humankind, to the well-being of all peoples on Earth.

As you prepare to meet the challenges before you during this session of the NPT Preparatory Committee, I invite you to pause and observe one minute of silence.  Draw upon the perspective of your personal faith and use this minute to reflect upon the human suffering caused by nuclear weapons in their more than fifty years of existence: the victims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the indigenous people and other inhabitants living in the vicinity of test sites in the western United States, Algeria, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, the South Pacific, and Australia; persons far away from test sites but harmed by drifting radioactive fallout; the people who have suffered by the side effects of mining operations and weapon production facilities.

In silence we can remember all who have suffer.  We can share together feelings of regret and contrition.  You who are delegates can also use this moment to reflect on what you can accomplish in the next two weeks.  You can re-dedicate yourself to working courageously and with imagination to find ways to end the nuclear arms race and rid Earth of this horrible plague on human existence.

        May we pause now in silence.
        [After one minute.]

In the spirit of renewal and re-dedication, the NGO community this afternoon would like to offer you ideas on steps that can be undertaken to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons, an achievable goal that humankind longs to accomplish.  Although NGOs have various perspectives on the issues presented, we have collaborated in preparing these statements.  We hope that our ideas will be useful to you in your deliberations.  Throughout your session we will be available to you to elaborate on what we have presented today.  We look forward to further exchange of ideas in the period leading up to the year 2000 NPT review conference.

Lastly, I want to thank you personally for the privilege of speaking to you.

Statement Coordinator: Howard Hallman, Methodists United for Peace and Justice, 1500 16th Street, NW, Washington DC, 20036, USA  tel/fax + 1 301 896 0013, email mupj@igc.apc.org