Faith Groups Vigil While Parliament Decides

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Yesterday Parliament voted in favour of building four new nuclear-powered submarines to carry US Trident missiles, armed with modernized nuclear warheads, for the next half century, in other words to renew Trident.  While this debate proceeded hundreds, maybe thousands of people came to Parliament Square with a different message.

The CND rally went ahead with wise words and tumultuous applause, while on the Parliament side of the square the Christian, Buddhist and other faith groups were for much of the time the main presence.  Who can have a silent vigil amid the roaring traffic and among friends that one has not seen for a year or more?  Nevertheless we prayed, I know we did, and God was listening. We stood with our banners “No Faith in Trident” and placards proclaiming church statements on Trident and nuclear weapons, as a witness against the accepted narrative that was proceeding in Parliament.

We attracted some attention from tourists and commuters, and we  talked with some foreign and freelance media. (UK mainstream media seems only ever engaged by violence.)  We talked about how we knew we would “lose the vote” – we who had no vote!  Yet we know we have the power of logic and humanity.  History shows that truth and goodness and common sense have a way of winning out in the long term.

We know that most countries are on our side, having already decided against the false security of nuclear weapons. It is very likely that next year a ban treaty will be agreed in the UN, making nuclear weapons illegal, as has already been achieved with chemical, biological and other weapons such as antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs, that could never meet Just War criteria.  If you still feel despondent about this go to http://uk.icanw.org/.

Martin Birdseye

ETHICS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

                     Pax Christi UK, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament                           and the Heston Justice & Peace Group invite you to  a

“DISCUSSION ON THE ETHICS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS”

An open meeting at the House of Commons

1.30 to 2.45 p.m. Thursday 21st April 2016  Committee Room 5

(please arrive by 1.15 p.m. to allow time to come through security)

hosted by Seema Malhotra MP

Speakers will include Ruth Cadbury MP and the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells

This will be an open meeting to debate the merits of unilateral and multilateral disarmament in achieving a nuclear free world. It will also be an opportunity to debate the ethics of nuclear weapons, regardless of your position on the issue.

The Heston Justice & Peace Group, Pax Christi, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament have been holding such briefings and discussions with Parliamentarians from across all parties. They have created a Nuclear Morality Flowchart, which is simply a decision tree, a logical network of moral and practical questions designed to encourage and enable a full and rational response to this complex issue.

You can try it now at http://nuclearmorality.com/interactive/interactive.html .

Ask your MP to try it and then send you his or her decision path. The special software makes this easy.

Further information from:  Martin Birdseye 020 8571 1691   077 6274 6895  info@nuclearmorality.com

TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY THINK

Politics and government is really all about deciding things. When we elect people to Parliament we are electing them to decide things for us, or in practice electing a government to decide things for us. We should be thankful that at least some of the issues come before Parliament, to be subject to debate and a vote by our elected representatives.

What we need to know as electors is how will they vote on crucial issues like renewing Trident. At the very least, and in so far as they can decide for themselves, how would they like to vote?  Will they have a free vote on what for many is a moral issue, a matter of conscience, or will they be constrained by party whip or loyalties? Knowing this would inform us as electors in a genuinely democratic system.

On this particular issue, of renewing our weapons of mass destruction, we have offered our local candidates a very simple method to define their position on the basic principles. All our four local candidates have been invited to complete the on-line interactive decision flowchart on the ethics of nuclear deterrence. http://nuclearmorality.com/

Tabulated below is the list of candidates for the constituency of Feltham and Heston in the 2015 General Election. As they respond to our request, a link will be added to each name, which will bring up their own personal solution to this moral problem.

Roger Crouch (Liberal Democrat)

Tony Firkins (Green Party)

Seema Malhotra (Labour)

Simon Nayyar     (Conservative)

What next – The Case for the Moral Case

 

Are we really awake, or are we in a mad dream?  It seems like that, when we see the daily need to make a case for something that is blindingly obvious.  Nearly everyone agrees that nuclear weapons are terribly dangerous, that they could destroy all of Earthly creation and that this could happen, by accident, madness or evil design. But still the political establishment and a significant minority of the population think we must continue to deploy nuclear weapons, at enormous cost, for the next forty years. We are surely trapped in a nightmare.

And yet we know we are awake; we know we have to persevere, patiently explaining the case against retention of nuclear weapons. 

Where to start? 

It is easy to show the cost – an economic case is nearly always the best approach for short-term gains with the electorate.

A political case might work better with the Establishment – weapons retained for power and status might lose their charm now that 155 countries are calling for their total elimination. The nine nuclear weapons nations  could come to be regarded as as pariah states.  http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000057366.pdf

There is already a good legal case – in 1996 the International Court of Justice declared that the world’s states have a binding duty to accomplish nuclear disarmament.   http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7497.pdf

We all crave security.  For that we commit billions of dollars, compromise our reputation with the rest of humanity and argue with the highest legal judgement on the planet. But for those who want to believe that nuclear weapons make us more secure there is more evidence every day that they have to ignore.

However, the humanitarian case has proved to be the way to wake up the world to the danger and to the injustice – the injustice of exceptionalism that allows a few rich nations to put at risk the rest of humanity for their own misjudged view of security.  Thanks to three major international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons the idea of asserting the right to possess them is becoming stigmatised in the eyes of the world, and no doubt in the eye of history.  Nuclear weapon states choosing to ignore this process, come to the table at the ongoing NPT conferences with no moral clothes to wear.

And having reached this stage of global awareness, the next phase (short of a new draft abolition treaty) is for the nuclear weapons states to be held to account morally for the destructive power that they persist in retaining.    Morals can be seen as standards by which we are enabled to live together, but most people can also see that there are intrinsic autonomous values which should rule our individual lives.  Therefore the moral case has power both at national and individual level, because to be defended by nuclear weapons is to accept a situation which is totally inconsistent with nearly every other aspect of our lives.

People can live with this inconsistency only until they see it clearly.  Governments can live with it only until their people can see it, and have the courage to hold them to account for it. So, beyond the humanitarian case there is the moral case.  When we can make it clear that nuclear deterrence (which is at the heart of all the so-called justifications for nuclear weapons) cannot function without a commitment to mass murder and human suffering on a scale never before imagined, then humanity has to reject it. 

And this in fact is the key to abolition.  Abolition is forever.  How can that be achieved?  How can we be sure that nuclear weapons are rejected for all time?  We will achieve this permanence only when there is a profound and widespread moral dimension to the decision. There is a close parallel with the abolition of slavery.  We still struggle to prevent slavery but collectively, as a global society, we can never go back to it, because after centuries of acceptance for economic reasons, we finally came to see that it was morally repugnant and incompatible with universally accepted values.

 When that is achieved for nuclear weapons we have a good chance to banish them forever.  To maintain the technology and the vast amount of engineering needed for creating even one nuclear weapon is not easy.  Even Britain, one of the smallest nuclear powers, has more than 5000 highly qualified people engaged in the task. In the face of a universal moral awareness and global censure, such a high level of activity could never be hidden or sustained. It will be abolished.

There is hope for our world.

 

 

For God’s sake, use your heart

  “I would like you to sit down in a calm place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus on the future of your grandchildren.”

It is my priviledge to publish this letter here. About ten years ago Mrs Deep Sandhu sent it to the leaders of every country in the world. She gave me a copy during my talk for Ealing U3A on Ethics of Nuclear Deterrence. That was a serious discussion on how to resolve the difficult moral questions, but here, heart speaks to hearts, and in the end they must listen. God help us if they can’t.

I am not a politician —just an ordinary seventy years old woman. When I was 22 years old I suffered from Tuberculosis. I still remember how awful it was watching people dying around me and thinking I might be next. It felt so great to be alive when I left the hospital. I decided to make good health my top priority in life. One can face or cope with anything as long as one is healthy.

I have always tried my best to tell my friends and family how important our health is.      I am not Mother Teresa, but I would do ANYTHING to turn our world around from its present destructive course. The first step is to plant a seed in your brain, which hopefully will grow to ring alarm bells in time to save the world before it is too late.

You have children of your own, and one day, God willing, you may have grandchild as I have. It scares me to death what sort of world we are going to leave for them. The way things are going we can easily start World War three. It would not be like the last 2 World Wars, It will be the end of our planet, as we know it. Surely just thinking of that makes you feel that you want to be rid of all those nuclear weapons on the planet.

We are all one God’s children — drops of the same ocean. Surely we don’t want to poison the sea, as it will affect all of us? There will be no escape from it. Instead, why don’t we learn to take care of each other? We need to create balance in the world. In this day and age every human being should have the dignity to have at least their basic needs met – of food and shelter.

I am sure we can change things around and really start caring for each other. Instead of spending millions and trillions on war, we could feed humanity.

I have a very dear old friend who is a writer. In 1991 he wrote a book about Hiroshima. This book is about the endless suffering and pain of innocent people caused by Americans when they dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, and three days later another in Nagasaki when more than million people were killed. As a result, for decades there were a great many disabled and malformed, badly distorted faces and bodies. As you read the book you hear the cries of the wounded, see thousands of scattered parts of the blown up bodies, and smell the stench of huge piles of rotting dead bodies. These scenes keep playing over and over again in your mind, as if you are watching a video. After intensive research and talking to people who lived through those horrific experiences, the writer explains exactly the enormity of the pain and damage caused by those acts of madness. Years later, thousands of people are still suffering from leukemia, blindness, cancer and other dreadful diseases because of the poisonous gases.

Any thinking person must realize the danger of any nuclear weapons on this planet. There have been mistakes made, either through human beings or technology, that could have resulted in World War three — e.g. the Cuban Missile Crisis, not forgetting Chernobyl.

After reading my letter, I would like you to sit down in a calm place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus on the future of your grandchildren.

What would they inherit from us, a planet full of poisonous gases?

Yours sincerely

Deep Sandhu

 Footnotes

 “This is what we are about:

We plant seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects

beyond our capabilities.”

Archbishop Oscar Romero

And now the world is listening:                                                                      http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BanPoster.pdf

And only two months ago, at the UN, 125 nations signed up to a statement demanding bold action to ban nuclear weapons: http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/the-tipping-point-125-states-at-unga-first-committee-demand-bold-action/

 

Hiroshima cranes

A personal appeal to our prime minister from the young people of Hiroshima goes straight to the generals and bureaucrats at the Ministry of Defence.

On December 3rd 2012, London schoolchildren delivered a special present to  Downing Street, as part of a project to send 1,000 hand-folded paper cranes to the president or prime minister of every UN member state, from the young people of Hiroshima.

They also delivered a letter addressed to David Cameron, asking specifically for a message of support for a global treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons. His response to this will be displayed, together with messages from other prime ministers and presidents, in Hiroshima and online.

Headed by a statement from Ban Ki Moon, the messages from national leaders are already beginning to appear on the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) website.  Among the first and most heartfelt statements are those from Kazakhstan and from the Marshall Islands.  These are the countries, after Japan, which have suffered most by actual detonation of nuclear weapons, in tests on their territories.

Response from Cameron

On being pressed for a report of progress we are informed by the Prime Minister’s office that the gift of 1000 hand-folded paper cranes has been forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.  This is to be his response to a hand-crafted personal gift?  One wonders what they will do with it. (Even their ‘peacemaking’ is normally done with military hardware.) It appears that the letter from Hiroshima has also been sent to the Ministry of Defence “for reply”.  A personal appeal to our prime minister goes straight to the generals and bureaucrats.

Is this how we do things here? We claim competence to wield weapons of mass destruction yet have no competence to deal with a simple peacemaking gesture. Nobody wants the response from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to appear to be ludicrously inadequate but that is what will happen unless someone takes the matter properly in hand.

Young people of Hiroshima are reaching out in practical love of humanity and real friendship, to the prime ministers or presidents of all the UN member states. They reach out with a gift and a letter, appealing to common sense, justice and humanity.  The gift in every case is a thing to be treasured for its natural beauty and for the significance of the work that has gone into it.  One thousand hand-folded origami paper cranes, “each one a prayer for a peaceful nuclear-weapon-free world”, are tightly threaded together and assembled into a unique and colourful object.  Unique if not for their being sent to 180 countries – over 180,000 paper cranes in total. Why cranes? Why a thousand?

Why Cranes?

Fifty seven years ago a twelve year old girl lay dying in a Japanese hospital. Sadako Sasaki was a survivor of Hiroshima. For a two year old baby, who was only one kilometre from the centre of the blast, to be growing into a healthy young girl must have seemed like a miracle of hope, but it was not to be.

After 10 years she was showing signs of radiation sickness and was diagnosed with leukaemia. She did not survive, but a different kind of miracle emerged. Sadako had learned that, according to Japanese legend, if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be granted a wish, in her case a wish for life itself. She started out folding dozens of cranes each day. When she ran out of paper, she used medicine wrappings and whatever else she could find. But as her condition worsened she could only manage to fold one or two a day. Sadly, she died before reaching her target, but then the other miracle began to happen.

Sadako’s friends completed the one thousand cranes. They ensured that her name is remembered. Sadako now symbolizes the impact of nuclear weapons on children. The origami cranes have become a symbol of hope and peaceful resistance to preparations for nuclear destruction. In Hiroshima and some other cities there are statues of Sadako which are regularly draped with colourful strings of cranes and it is the voice of young people that is most effectively coaxing the world away from nuclear madness.

UN Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC)

Meanwhile a treaty was being drafted – a treaty known as the UN Nuclear Weapons
Convention (NWC), designed to abolish nuclear weapons and systematically eliminate
them in much the same way as the existing treaties on chemical and biological weapons,
anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs. In some ways it will be easier to eliminate
nuclear weapons than these others, because nuclear weapons depend on a vast amount of engineering and are easier to detect, but politically it is more difficult.

The Convention on Nuclear Weapons was first put before the UN by Costa Rica in 1997 and then again in 2007 by Costa Rica and Malaysia. It is actually a model for a UN treaty; it is a basis for the start of negotiation. 146 countries, i.e. nearly all those outside of NATO and other nuclear alliances, support the immediate commencement of negotiations on the NWC. Five of the nuclear nations: USA, Russia, Israel, France and UK, do not support commencement of negotiations on the NWC. The UK position is that NWC would at present be “premature and potentially counter-productive”, citing the risk of diverting political capital and resources away from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But the NPT is itself at some risk because of failure of the nuclear states to meet obligations under Article VI and indeed the development of new weapon systems like our Trident replacement programme, already underway.

How will Cameron respond to this? Current UK policy is set on re-armament, in defiance
of NPT and the wishes of most of humanity. But how can he make a negative response
to this humble but straightforward request from young people? The gift and the letter
were delivered to 10 Downing Street on 3rd December by some equally youthful London
based supporters and they too are awaiting a response. Any sort of political obfuscation
would look very inadequate to them and therefore to everyone else – political lies may be
commonplace but it is simply not acceptable to deceive young people.

In fact Cameron has every reason to be positive. It is a leadership opportunity for the
UK. He could bring a message of hope for the world. Britain has the technical, legal and
diplomatic skills to contribute hugely to the Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC). We
could go from a position of relative isolation (alone with four other nuclear nations) to the
position of supporting the commencement of negotiation. Here also is a positive way out
of our legally and morally iniquitous (and unaffordable) decision to replace Trident. And in
time we could bid for hosting the Agency which will administer the NWC treaty.