This month, the world will mark the 71st anniversary of the use of atomic weapons by the United States on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945). On those two days, more than 100,000 people were killed, and their voices and the voices of those still suffering today continue to cry out to us.
For seventy-one years, the existence of nuclear weapons has kept the human family on the brink of planetary destruction. We have lived under the shadow of our own annihilation for nearly four generations, allowing a small but persistent and powerful minority within the global community to continue to pursue an agenda that offers economic benefits to the few at the expense of the insecurity of the many. The money spent on the production and stockpiling of these weapons of mass destruction must be measured against the millions and billions of people who are denied the basic elements of life and peace which promote human dignity.
Seventy-one years is long enough. Rather than blindly subscribing to the false sense of security which the proponents of nuclear weapons promote, we need to advance an agenda which promises authentic security. This anniversary is our opportunity to turn the nuclear tide and take steps toward real, significant disarmament.
The global community has settled for empty promises, lofty rhetoric and weakened half-measures toward nuclear disarmament for far too long. The enthusiasm among a growing majority of states in favour of a nuclear weapons ban is encouraging, especially as nuclear-armed countries move to modernize their arsenals. The recent decision of the British Parliament to renew and expand the Trident submarine program over the next half-century is a case in point.
Pax Christi International and our member organisations are part of the momentum that is building to ban nuclear weapons. Meeting in February and May of this year, over 100 governments and many civil society organisations took part in a special UN Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament; their work will be reflected in a report to be sent to the UN General Assembly in August 2016.
The Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) will meet during the period of 5-19 August to summarise their findings and agree to recommendations on legal measures which can propel the work of nuclear disarmament forward. Jonathan Frerichs, Pax Christi International’s UN representative in Geneva for disarmament, has crafted a call for action aimed at supporting the effort to reset the disarmament agenda and focus on bringing negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban to a multilateral forum. Many of our member organisations and partners have used this letter to contact their governments and follow up with meetings with officials within their Foreign Ministry offices. Pax Christi International will continue to follow up on these efforts within the OEWG.
The profound immorality of nuclear weapons is no longer a subject open for debate. Peacebuilding efforts aimed at increasing our collective security are undermined when the military powers of the world community continue to manufacture and possess nuclear weapons. It is time to pursue a peace that is rooted in the practice of justice and solidarity rather than dependent on the threat of mutually assured destruction.
The voices of the hibakusha—the survivors of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—grow fewer every year. It is our responsibility to assure that the tragedy they experienced never happens again. We must have the will to make it a reality now, in their lifetimes, while we still have the authority of their witness among us.