Anglican Church leaders have called on the UK government to make a stand for a peace future by signing an international treaty banning nuclear weapons.
The archbishops of Canterbury and York as well as 29 bishops wrote a joint letter in the Observer urging the UK to join 50 other nations that are supporting the United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The treaty, which needed commitment from 50 countries, will be active starting 22nd January 2021 after Honduras signed the agreement three weeks ago.
A spokesman for António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said the treaty was “the culmination of a worldwide movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”.
He added: “It represents a meaningful commitment towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.
But none of the world’s nuclear powers, which include China, France, Russia, the US and the UK, have signed the agreement.
Most Rev Stephen Cottrell told the Observer the Church is concerned for peace and reconciliation and “Although we recognise that there are different legitimate views on how we make and keep peace, the church has consistently considered any use or possession of nuclear weapons to be outside of what could ever be considered a just use of arms.”
He added: The treaty would not result in the disappearance of nuclear weapons overnight, “but it’s another step on the journey towards becoming a nuclear-free world.”
The joint letter entitled “Britain must sign treaty” reads:
As bishops of the Church of England, we warmly welcome and applaud the recent ratification, by the required number of member states, of the United Nations’ treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and we rejoice that the treaty will therefore come into force on 22 January 2021.
For so many of the nations of the world to speak clearly of the need to ban these weapons of mass destruction is an encouraging and hopeful sign. We commit ourselves to pray and to work so that this ratification will indeed help to see an end to nuclear weapons in the future. We very much regret that the UK, together with other nuclear states, has not yet signed the accord. We call on the UK government to do so and thereby to give hope to all people of goodwill who seek a peaceful future.
We echo the UN secretary general who “commends the states that have ratified the treaty and salutes the work of civil society, which has been instrumental in f acilitating the negotiation and ratification of the treaty”. Accordingly, we renew our support for the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, together with sister organisations and agencies in each nation, whose advocacy and commitment continues to make such a difference.