The following remarks were delivered by Pax Christi International Co-President Marie Dennis in her position as a panelist at the "Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World" conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, 28-29 August. Ms. Dennis was invited by the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). The conference of parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, government representatives and disarmament experts is being held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.
Pax Christi, a global Catholic peace movement with 120 member organizations on 5 continents, was founded at the end of the Second World War to support efforts at reconciliation between the French and the Germans. Almost from the beginning we joined the long struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Let me say a few words this afternoon from the Catholic perspective – although all of the work that we do is with people of many faith traditions and with all people of good will committed to abolishing nuclear weapons.
First, we approach this challenge as part of a local Church - from Hiroshima and (especially) Nagasaki and the Marshall Islands; from communities where uranium miners and downwinders live; from impoverished communities, who, as Pope Francis said, “Pay the price” when resources are squandered on nuclear weapons. (Dec 7, 2014)
Second, we are part of a Church with a long track record of working for nuclear disarmament. Most recently, in December 2014, the Holy See’s statement to the Vienna Conference revoked the moral justification for nuclear deterrence and therefore for the design, development or possession of nuclear weapons.
And third, we are part of a global Church that brings to the effort for nuclear disarmament some important resources, including a well-organized presence in almost every country, educational and communications capacity and access to every sector of our societies, from national decision-makers to local neighborhoods.
The humanitarian impact debate points directly to the questions that we as faith communities are asking: What kind of people are we of the 21st century? What values shape our political priorities; how do we represent them on the global stage; and what do they say about our concern for future generations?
Nuclear weapons are in essence inhumane and unethical. Pax Christi fully supports the position of the Holy See stated so clearly in Vienna:
“World leaders must be reminded that the commitment to disarm embedded in the NPT and other international documents is more than a legal-political detail, it is a moral commitment on which the future of the world depends…Responsibility for the abolition of nuclear weapons is an essential component of the global common good.” (Pope Francis, 7 December 2014)
As an international Catholic peace movement we will continue to highlight the ethical imperative for a nuclear weapons-free world. To that end, in coalition with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and many other international, regional and national organizations...
- Pax Christi will support the recent recommendation of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG), engaging in that process to the greatest extent possible: helping to bring governments which rely on nuclear weapons to accept consensus and encouraging more of the nuclear-free states to join the debate and demonstrate the majority support, which is the ban’s best asset.
- We will work for the creation of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East, including the 21 state-members of the Arab League plus Iran and Israel. We believe that Turkey should also be included in a WMDFZ in the Middle East. This would require the withdrawal of NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons from Turkish territory – a move we fully support. In fact, member organisations of Pax Christi in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy have campaigned for decades to get U.S. nuclear weapons out of Europe.
- We will oppose modernisation of nuclear arsenals, especially in Europe and the United States. Again, we agree completely with Pope Francis that “the prolongation of the nuclear establishment continues to perpetuate patterns of impoverishment both domestically and internationally.” (Time for Abolition, December 2014)
- And we will promote the growing international campaign, "Don’t Bank on the Bomb," which was initiated by our Dutch member organization, PAX, to engage the public in an effective nonviolent campaign to undercut bank participation in the production or refurbishing of nuclear weapons.
Between July 8th and October 2nd, as part of Chain Reaction 2016, Pax Christi and its member organisations are sponsoring a series of nonviolent actions at nuclear weapons- and nuclear disarmament-related sites and political offices around the world to demonstrate that people want peace and nuclear disarmament. The example of Kazakhstan gives hope to the world that the abolition of nuclear weapons is possible.
Again, to quote Pope Francis: “To achieve nuclear abolition, we need to resist succumbing to the limits set by political realism... The fear that drives the reluctance to disarm must be replaced by a spirit of solidarity that binds humanity to achieve the global common good of which peace is the fullest expression.” (Time for Abolition December 2014)