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A new nuclear and wisdom

Over the decades since World War II, the Church has developed an increasing clarity in its teaching on the use of nuclear weapons in the hostility and anger of war.

The anniversaries of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9 have also served as occasions for renewed reflection each year, which have developed to the extent that the Vatican observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, could say at a world forum last year, “Proliferation (of nuclear weapons) is a real and serious challenge.”

He continued, “The nuclear weapon states must abide by their obligations to negotiate the total elimination of their own arsenals if they are to have any authenticity in holding the non-nuclear states to their commitments not to pursue nuclear weapons…”

The international Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, says that there are reasons we should be optimistic about the abolition of nuclear weapons.

It points to an increasing solidarity among countries that are threatened by nuclear war and the increasing number of treaties and conventions being signed among those who possess those weapons.

Also, it says that more and more pressure is being put on them to use the money invested in the nuclear industry for more humane purposes, while at the same time, projects like the Trident in the United Kingdom are demonstrating the financial impossibility of staying viable in the nuclear race.

However, in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that saw a nuclear spill at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, the bishops of Japan have taken their call for an end to the nuclear era a step further, questioning its use in the production of such energy even for peaceful purposes.

In their message for the nation’s Ten Days for Peace Programme this year, the bishops from the Land of the Rising Sun say that the message coming out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has changed.

It is no longer limited to the hostilities of war, but, they say, extends to the calm of peacetime.

During the week that runs from the August 6 anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing to the August 15 surrender of their nation to the United States of America, the bishops are asking people to reflect on the implications of the very existence of nuclear energy for any purpose, as in any form, it poses such an extreme threat to all life, that it can be called a misuse of science and technology.

Pope John Paul II pointed out with profound regret during his speech in Hiroshima on 25 February 1981 that so many places in the world are famous for their war memorials, prison camps or other places of extreme suffering caused as a result of war.

In the same breath he praised the Japanese for making the site of the first atomic bomb not a memorial to war, but a monument to peace.

The Japanese bishops are questioning the fundamental relationship between nuclear energy and economic progress as we understand it in the world today, saying that the preparedness to risk what Fukushima has demonstrated really is at stake, reflects something radically wrong with the direction in which the world economy is moving.

Maybe the sites that have witnessed nuclear spills in the world should ultimately be developed as monuments to a new nuclear and economic wisdom. JiM