CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 14 September 2019

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Nuclear power and war are two sides of the same coin

TOKYO (SE): “Fukushima has become a place where those suffering inflict pain on each other. Fukushima is crying out, the land and sky are weeping. Please listen to the voice of Fukushima, please listen to the cries of the lives of the children who are silent,” a Buddhist priest declared at the Interreligious Conference on Nuclear Weapons held in Aizu-Wakamatsu and Iwaki, the province of Fukushima in Japan, between December 4 and 7.

The 87 participants from Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, The Philippines, Thailand, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Switzerland, Canada and the United States of America concluded, “There is no safe use of nuclear power, no safe level of exposure to radiation and no compatibility between nuclear power and life and peace.”

The gathering was held in Fukushima to expose the delegates to the real life situation of those who survived the devastating nuclear spill resulting from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year.

“We heard of a three-year-old child who has learned to fear playing in the sand; we heard from a husband whose wife had to lie repeatedly to community members about their decision to move for the sake of their children to avoid pressure to remain in a contaminated area; we heard from a fisherman who does not know when or whether he will ever again be able to fish for his living; and we heard how residents of Fukushima are discouraged from seeking independent medical diagnoses,” a statement from the gathering reads.

“We saw the different readings of government and independent radiation monitors; we saw photographs of livestock abandoned to die; we saw the last words of a man who took his own life; and we saw slogans promising a healthy prosperous life based on nuclear energy in a town abandoned because of high radiation levels,” it continues.

The gathering pinpointed what it termed the collusion of government, military, business and media to promote nuclear power as being a big plus for the whole population of the country.

However, it notes that the findings of the conference and the input from the delegates from Okinawa and local people from Fukushima directly contradict this.

It found that in pushing their agenda, big business and government place a low value on human life, riding roughshod over community interests, the health of the environment and the value of human life and community.

Okinawa is a natural target for the development of unpopular projects, including nuclear power. 

Since the 1970s, the Japanese government has targeted impoverished areas for nuclear facilities, bribing the local people with promised subsidies and the chance of a better life from the nuclear industry.

Okinawa is Japan’s poorest province with the lowest school achievement levels in the country and the supposed benefits from the nuclear industry are considered an easy sell.

This type of attitude led anti-nuclear campaigner, Yagi Tadashi, to proclaim, “Nuclear is powered by discrimination.”

Delegates found many similarities between the treatment of people in Fukushima and Okinawa, where local people say the construction of giant military installations and harbours is killing both the environment and human community life.

“These include the low priority placed by government and business organisations on the life of the communities, on the individual lives and livelihoods of residents, and on the integrity of creation; the inadequate compensation offered to individuals and families injured by government and corporate decisions; the disruption of communities; and the relationship of nuclear power to nuclear weapons,” the conference statement proclaims.

The Fukushima conference also pointed to what it called a direct connection between the promotion of nuclear energy and war.

“Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin, developed and promoted by a political, military and economic complex for its own benefit. Government, the military and business developed nuclear power for the purpose of war-making without regard to life and the integrity of all creation,” the conference statement reads.

It also heaps scorn on what it calls the myth of peaceful use of nuclear power. “Nations which have developed nuclear power, but foresworn nuclear arms, demonstrate the arrogance to believe they can dominate nature and natural forces,” the conference statement says.

It then points to evidence in country after country that has dabbled in the nuclear field as damaging the environment for tens of thousands of years, causing death and disease among the people and animals, and even changing the DNA structure in both human and animal life.

The conference declared that for Christians there is a mandate from the saviour to be pro-life people, a mandate which the conference says should be taken seriously.

“As people of faith, we commit to care for life unreservedly, to protect all life, and to speak the truth and break down misleading myths about nuclear power and nuclear issues to our own communities and with one voice to all people,” the delegates at the conference committed themselves to doing.

They said that this resolve has been strengthened by the stories they heard from the victims of the nuclear spill in Fukushima and the way in which the people say they have been manipulated and lied to by government officials and business tycoons.

It calls this an issue that should be on the table for discussion and study in all Christian communities, especially in terms of the fundamental relationship between nuclear weapons and nuclear power technology. “The deliberate cover-ups and disinformation about nuclear power must be exposed,” the conference says.

The conference statement will be sent to the World Council of Churches for discussion at its 2013 assembly and some delegates from the conference will run a workshop at the assembly on the impact of nuclear power.

“In conclusion, holding the Interreligious Conference on Nuclear Issues here in Fukushima awakened us, people of many faiths and nations, to the reality of suffering caused by nuclear power. We have pledged to work to abolish nuclear power, to heal the living communities affected by it, and to restore creation as fully as possible. From here, we journey to our own communities to begin fulfilling our pledge and commitments,” the statement, signed by all 87 delegates to the conference, concludes.

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