HONG KONG (SE): “Not being married, I don’t have children of my own, but my four sisters have given me 17 nieces and nephews and there are now 48 in the next generation,” the former auxiliary of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop Pat Power, told a rally outside parliament house in Canberra on March 28, as the United Nations (UN) was sitting down in New York to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
“They are all very precious to me and at times the state of our world makes me very fearful for their future,” Bishop Power said, in pointing out that it is difficult to comprehend why the Australian government is refusing to take part in the UN negotiations on a new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons.
“Surely our government should be part of every effort to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which pose such a threat to world peace and even the very future of our planet,” the bishop continued.
Australia decided to follow the pull on the leash from its master, the United States of America (US), and boycott the UN gathering. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN explained that the world is too unsafe for her nation not to have nuclear weapons, so it has no intention of giving them up.
Ironically, she used the same rationale to hang onto nuclear weapons as Bishop Power did in calling for them to be abolished!
The comments of the Australian bishop and the US ambassador set up a conundrum that the 113 countries that have agreed to attend the negotiations are challenged to figure out a solution for.
In his message to the gathering, Pope Francis addressed it directly, saying, international peace and stability cannot be based on the threat of destruction or simply maintaining a balance of power.
“Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation,” the pope said, adding a message for the over 40 countries that had refused to come to the table that the participation of all in public life is needed to build adequate trust between peoples to support peaceful institutions.
He then stressed the importance of ensuring access to education and health, and a decent life for all people as being at the root of calming volatility in the world, and that these can only be addressed through a sincere dialogue.
“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction—and possibly the destruction of all mankind—are contradictory to the very spirit of the UN. We must therefore commit ourselves to a world without nuclear weapons, by fully implementing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, both in letter and spirit,” Pope Francis emphasised.
Speaking in Canberra, Bishop Power urged people to listen to the words of the pope, saying that he has won hearts, not only of Catholic people, but of countless numbers of good will, as like his name sake, St. Francis of Assisi, he truly is a man of peace.
In his message to the UN gathering, the man of peace then said that in the current international context, characterised by instability and conflict, as well as threats to peace and security like terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity, environmental problems, poverty, not a few doubts arise regarding the inadequacy of nuclear deterrence as an effective response to such challenges.
Bishop Power said that here Pope Francis is looking at the big picture and, although he believes that the Australian character is nobler than some of its government’s self-centred and short-sighted policies, he believes that the pope’s statement can well be addressed to attitudes towards refugees and foreign aid, the favourite budget for the fiscal ax.
He stressed that all people deserve a peaceful world order based on the unity of the human family, grounded on respect, cooperation, solidarity and compassion. Now is the time to foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue.
“Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. To prioritise such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources, which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against poverty,” Bishop Power said.
“When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price,” he stressed.
But Pope Francis pushed his argument even further, pointing out that nuclear weapons are the direct enemy of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In order to achieve these goals, the pope believes the world needs to nuke the nukes and form a new and unambiguous relationship among nations.
“From this perspective, we need to go beyond nuclear deterrence. The international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability, and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security,” Pope Francis told the UN gathering.
He then added that universally and collectively we are responsible for the future and Bishop Power concluded his appeal saying, “It is my great hope that this responsibility will inform our efforts in favour of nuclear disarmament, for a world without nuclear weapons is truly possible.”