Representatives of nine Christian groups working on peace issues have written to the UK Foreign Office, urging the government to make strides in effort to achieve global nuclear disarmament.
The letter from all members of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations comes ahead of the second anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on Sunday.
The purpose of treaty is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states that do not have them, make sure civil nuclear energy programs don’t turn into weapons programs, and aid in nuclear disarmament. It also recognises the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and provides for reparations to be paid for the environmental damage they cause. TPNW was negotiated in 2017, and has been signed by 92 states and ratified by 68.
The letter stressed the importance of making meaningful progress towards global nuclear disarmament and urged the UK to cooperate with Pacific nations seeking information on the legacy of 1950s nuclear testing.
Russell Whiting, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) development manager, said: "The success of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with support from every continent, shows that the vast majority of the world wants to live in a world without nuclear weapons. So does a majority of people in the UK. If the UK government is serious about wanting a nuclear weapons-free world, they should be using every available avenue to achieve it."
The UK has yet to engage with the treaty and didn’t send an observer to the First Meeting of States Parties, which took place in Vienna last August.
The UK government has stated that the TPNW is not the proper way to pursue nuclear disarmament. The government instead focuses on its involvement with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Within the NPT, the UK is working to preserve and strengthen effective arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation measures,” The Foreign Office said in November 2021 statement.
“The UK has led by example on nuclear disarmament. Since the end of the Cold War, we have dismantled our tactical and air-delivered nuclear weapons, becoming the only Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) with a single weapon system. We have also reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy, and significantly reduced our total stockpile of nuclear warheads.”
However, Christian peace groups insist that the UK’s efforts aren’t enough.
John Cooper, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: "Britain's development of nuclear weapons has left a long-lasting legacy in the Pacific. Reports of health problems passed down through generations and stories of destroyed habitats are a hidden part of our history. It's time for Britain to face up to its past and provide information and reparations to all affected."
The full list of signatures to the letter:
Simon Barrow, Director, Ekklesia
Sue Claydon, Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Ann Farr, Chair, Pax Christi England and Wales
Andrew Fox, British Isles Mission Centre President, Community of Christ
Rev Dr Barbara Glasson, President, Methodist Peace Fellowship
Oliver Robertson, Head of Witness and Worship, Quakers in Britain.
Peter Speirs, Clerk to Trustees, Northern Friends Peace Board
Bridget Tiller, Co-Chair, Christian CND
Rev Dr Mark Wakelin, Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation