Shortly after the development and use of atomic weapons in the 1930’s then tragically in August 1945, nuclear scientists, anxious over what they had wrought, began writing the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BOAC). Every front cover of the publication carried a “doomsday clock” with midnight denoting the fatal moment that might bring nuclear conflagration/disaster/extinction of life on Earth. In 2014 BOAC editors and writers voted to move the minute hand to 11:57, just three minutes shy of midnight.
Small kilotons (thousands of tons) bombs completely destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Radioactivity remains in the soil of two cities. Presently we are all threatened by megaton (millions of tons) weapons. One megaton is a freight train stretching 300 miles (Kansas City, Missouri east to St. Louis on the Mississippi) loaded with TNT. Our atomic weapons can easily obliterate entire nations.
Fifty years ago Pope John XXIII called for a ban on all atomic/nuclear weapons. Pope Francis has made abolition of all nuclear weapons a priority of his global concern. His position is not new in our era.
In 1962 the United Nations issued a declaration with a strident denunciation of any nation using weapons of mass destruction. The Second Vatican Council followed in 1963 with a condemnation of any state using city-destroying weapons. (Church in the Modern World, paragraph 89)
Progress has been made in prohibition of nuclear weapons: The UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) lists encouraging advances in banning of nuclear weapons:
*The Treaty of Tlateloco (Mexico) drawn up in 1967 bans nuclear weapons from all nations in Central, Latin America and the Caribbean.
*Nuclear weapons are prohibited in Antarctica
*Treaty of Rarotonga declares a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone
*Treaty of Bangkok
*Treaty of Pelindaba – calls for an African Nuclear Free Zone
*Treaty of Mongolia – calls for a Nuclear Free Zone in central Asia
*A treaty bans nuclear weapons on the Moon or other celestial bodies
*Seabed Treaty – bans nuclear weapons on the ocean floor
(April 7, 1966 a US hydrogen bomb, missing since a B-52 crash in January, was recovered off the Spanish coast)
The smallest village in the world could vote to declare itself a Nuclear Free Zone(NFZ) such as my hometown of 4500 people – Breese ,IL. NFZ’s are spiritual oases of global awareness.
In December 2014 the world received a statement from Rome expressing the desire of Pope Francis to abolish nuclear weapons globally.
All members of the UN Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the USA) possess nuclear weapons. All UN member nations will have to reconcile with the 1962 condemnation by UN members if any country would use such weapons in warfare. If it is unacceptable to use atomic weapons, it is also immoral to intend to use them.
“Abolition” is a dangerous venture in history as Elijah Lovejoy (1802-1837) experienced in his literary efforts to abolish slavery from his Alton, IL anti-slavery office. Lovejoy was attacked initially by pro-slavery advocates, but continued in his righteous campaign. Second, slavery supporters threw his printing press into the muddy Mississippi. Since Lovejoy would not be silenced, he was killed in the third assault by slavery advocates.
Addiction to warfare and development of more deadly weapons has brought all on Earth to the radioactive environmental brink.
Admiral Noel Gaylor, after 45 years active duty with the US Navy spoke with conviction in Haverford College (Philadelphia) on Hiroshima Day (August 6, 1984): “The day we dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, we made ourselves completely defenseless; the day we detonated a Hydrogen bomb we made ourselves 1000 times more defenseless. The only defense against nuclear weapons is to stop building them!”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German Lutheran theologian who joined a small group that tried to remove Hitler from power. Bonhoeffer was martyred by the Nazis for his opposition to a war machine gone amok.
Bonhoeffer’s observation on human history is relevant in our secretive world of perhaps 20,000 nuclear weapons: “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to children.”
Do we desire to leave a world in which people are enslaved to anything, especially weapons that could terminate life on Earth?
The dramatic December 2014 invitation of Pope Francis to ban atomic/nuclear weapons is a momentum to which each one of us can lend our support – For our children.