Mushroom cloud from nuclear weapons test in the Pacific Ocean
I am Pax Christi, Nuclear Disarmament, Our Stories, Peace

Putting Hope to Work: The Pax Christi Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament

By Jonathan Frerichs, UN representative for disarmament, Geneva, Pax Christi International

Pax Christi’s working group on nuclear disarmament is an embodiment of hope born with Pax Christi 75 years ago—the hope for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The working group was formed at a propitious time, in 2016.  Three seminal conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons had changed the dynamics of disarmament.  A growing majority of the world’s governments and a broad range of civil society organizations were united behind a singular conviction: “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances”.  Pax Christi had the further good fortune that this new group was formed during the current papacy.  The Holy Father’s prophetic admonitions to free the world of nuclear weapons have encouraged and guided us from the start.

Here are some of the convictions and experiences, opportunities and challenges the group brings to a critical task.

Conviction.  In Japan’s symbolic cities last November, Pope Francis condemned not only the use of nuclear weapons, but also their possession.  His words inspired concerned citizens around the world.    Some of our group had heard him make the same point before 400 peace workers, diplomats and church leaders in 2017 when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which includes Pax Christi.  We also worked and prayed for his message to be heard in Japan.

At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial, the Holy Father called nuclear weapons “a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home”.

At Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Hypo-Center Park, the pontiff said nuclear weapons breed “a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust”.  The pope challenged the theory of nuclear deterrence which has defined the nuclear era and continues to hold the entire planet at risk.

Before and after the papal visit, we took heart from actions of the Canadian and Japanese bishops’ conferences.  Both conferences urged their governments to sign and ratify the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  It will become international law when 12 more states ratify the agreement.

The bishops in Canada along with leaders of other churches urged the Canadian government “to work with allies and to engage would-be adversaries to formulate security arrangements that do not rely on the threat of nuclear annihilation.”

The Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan complemented the pope’s visit by calling on the leader of Japan, the only country to experience atomic warfare, to lead the international community in abolishing nuclear weapons.

These calls from the church have significant implications: Key nations must abandon the mutually assured destruction which has defined the 20th century and embrace the mutually assured security on which life in the 21st century already depends.

The working group’s members are familiar with such dilemmas.  They are mostly from countries which have, or rely on, nuclear weapons. But the language of “having” and “relying on” nuclear weapons can hide harsh realities.  For much of the past 75 years our countries have threatened humanity with indiscriminate destruction and practiced nuclear apartheid in international affairs.

In reality, today and every day, our leaders stand willing and able to destroy hundreds or even thousands of Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. Our governments insist they would use nuclear weapons only in extremis, but this does not alter the fact that they would be committing mass murder in other countries and mass suicide in their own countries at the same time.  What is more, they stand ready to take such actions with only a moment’s notice. This caveat alone makes a mockery of the entire nuclear regime and the doctrine of deterrence by which it justifies itself.

The work of peace requires conviction.  These are but a few examples.  Pax Christi’s diverse membership knows from experience that every true work of peace is much more than opposition to something evil.  It is also positive engagement for something of great good.  The case of nuclear weapons leads us to what Pax Christi’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative calls a wider engagement with the suffering of our world, the forms of violence which spawn that suffering, and the love and determination to end it together.

Experience. The working group is blessed with the wide range of skills, vocations and commitments of its members.  One member, a national coordinator of Pax Christi, came from a career in teaching, speech therapy and clinic management.  She had always worked for justice and peace with the church.

Another member of the group practiced law for 35 years, specializing in civil litigation, before working with Pax Christi.

One member is a life-long advocate of nonviolent methods for dealing with conflicts. He became a foreign service officer during the Cold War and then helped establish the Nonviolent Peaceforce.  A toolkit he designed for Pax Christi provides faith communities with ways to address ethnic and racial conflict.

Another member was a mathematician in Germany’s Space Operation Center. His local Pax Christi section, which he joined 40 years ago, focuses on arms exports, Middle East peace and interreligious dialogue.  His priorities include removing the nuclear bombs based in Germany and opposing the growing threat of lethal autonomous weapons.

Members speak of milestones in their pursuits of peace. Theresa Alessandro of Pax Christi UK recalls: “As a teenager I read John Hersey’s book ‘Hiroshima’ and I have believed in getting rid of nuclear weapons ever since. Finding in Pax Christi others who feel the same has supported me and helped me channel my frustration over the continuing presence of nuclear weapons in the world.”

“A regional meeting in Jordan, followed by visits to members in Palestine and Lebanon, and to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, made a deep impression on me,” says Marie Dennis of Pax Christi USA and former co-president of Pax Christi International. She is connected to peacemakers around the world through the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and has authored theological blogs against nuclear weapons.

“The work leading up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017 was highly gratifying—sessions at the UN, lobbying individual Missions and meeting creative, intelligent, passionate people from around the world, capped off by the Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament,” says Mary Yelenick of Pax Christi USA. Her work has led to new friendships with young peace-builders around the world.

Opportunities.  Working groups are a benefit to their members when opportunities in one place lead to new approaches in other places.  When one member shares their plans and purposes, it may help another member to see new options too.  Collaboration along these lines may even shape a kind of power map showing which actions work where.

For example, the new nuclear ban treaty is being signed and ratified at a healthy pace.  Only 12 more ratifications are needed before it enters into force.  But that process takes time.  The nuclear powers and various allies are going to considerable lengths to denounce, dismiss and ignore the accord.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will make nuclear weapons illegal.  Meanwhile, close at hand, are ways to make nuclear weapons even more illegitimate than they already are.  Thanks to the work of PAX Netherlands (formerly IKV Pax Christi), detailed information is available to the international community about which banks and investment funds are financing nuclear weapons and which corporations are involved in making them.  BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund are among the 77 financial institutions which have cut or ended their investments in nuclear arms.  Pax Christi UK is also advocating and facilitating responsible investments with an inter-faith project on Banks, Pensions and Nuclear Weapons: Investing In Change.

The most striking feature on our power map of Europe are the US nuclear weapons permanently stationed in five European countries.  Pax Christi’s nuclear disarmament working group has members in four of these countries—Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy.  Protests at the bases and lobbies of governments take place regularly.  A new project by Pax Christi Flanders would engage with parliamentarians opposed to nuclear weapons in each country and encourage inter-parliamentary initiatives for the weapons to be removed.

One of Pax Christi International’s other global priorities is to advocate with communities affected by mining, logging and other extractive industries in Latin America.  Pax Christi partners there and in Africa are aware that the economic and ecological injustices they face are also related to the nuclear threat.  The exploitation of strategic minerals is one example; the fact that virtually all nuclear weapons tests have taken place on the territory of indigenous peoples is another.  Pax Christi International is part of the worldwide effort by ICAN to have states sign and ratify the nuclear ban treaty.  This was explained to partners in Colombia and DR Congo.   They contacted their foreign ministries at home and worked through Pax Christi’s United Nations office to bring the same request to their missions in New York.

Challenges. The road to a nuclear-weapon-free world is paved with challenges.  Here are some current examples:

  • It is fitting that the members of Pax Christi’s nuclear disarmament working group are mostly from nuclear-weapon states and their allies. But since Pax Christi has 120 member organizations on five continents, it would also be fitting to welcome new members on the working group—especially from the global majority of countries which reject nuclear arms.
  • A new nuclear arms race has begun. Treaties which have limited nuclear arsenals for decades are expiring without being renewed. Nuclear-weapon states are modernising their arsenals.  The USA is spending more on its military than the next 10 military powers combined.  Such trends must be reversed.
  • Curiously, the nine states with the world’s most fearsome weapons have done a poor job of defending themselves against a microscopic coronavirus. New national priorities are needed— moving vast resources from threatening lives to saving lives.
  • The world is still at risk of nuclear annihilation 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pax Christi is still working for healing, reconciliation and peace.

The climax of Pax Christi’s anniversary year was to have been the movement’s World Assembly in Hiroshima, a much-anticipated opportunity for reflection, thanksgiving, fellowship and renewal.  There is reason to regret that the gathering was not possible but also to be grateful for the safety of foregoing it.

This 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings is a warning to a world newly reminded of its fragile, common fate.  Nuclear weapons have no place where security is truly shared.  Pax Christi’s anniversary motto – “Let’s build peace together” – is an invitation to the practice of hope.

Photo: US Government via the ICAN Flickr Stream CC BY-NC 2.0.

Peace

For the 75th anniversary of Pax Christi International, let’s blow out the candles together!

PCI 75 donation gateau post websiteAround the world, we work to make peace and nonviolence a way of life.

It’s not easy every day. But our mission is just and—more than ever—we are motivated to lead humankind to more serene and peaceful pathsDiscover our history.

With new campaigns to celebrate 75 years, a special logo and many other actions throughout this anniversary year, Pax Christi has decided to share its message of joy with as many people as possible. Discover our campaign.

For all these years, Pax Christi International has been working with your help. We bring experience wherever we can to resolve conflict situations through nonviolence. Our goal is to transform our earth into a more just, nonviolent, and peaceful world.

You can participate in this change by supporting us through donations, volunteering or becoming a member of our movement. Discover our network.

Whatever your contribution, it will be welcome.

Through us and with your help, let us build a peaceful world.

Nonviolence, Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

A Theological Foundation for Rejecting the Possession and Use of Nuclear Weapons

Marie Dennis (former co-president of Pax Christi International) and Ken Butigan (Pace Bene) reflect on a Theological Foundation for Rejecting the Possession and Use of Nuclear Weapons:

The Universal Ethic of Nonviolence Rooted in the Life and Mission of Jesus

read more : click here

Peace

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

Picture22bis
From left: Ri Ki Ho, First Secretary, North Korean Mission to the UN; Kim Won-wung, South Korean, President, Heritage of Korean Independence; Lee Jae-jung, South Korean National Assembly Member.
BY DOUG HOSTETTER

Looking for peace in difficult places

People often seem surprised when they learn I have spent a significant time in recent years working on peace with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. Perhaps it is the combination of who I am and where I work that has given me the passion for peacebuilding in one of the most difficult regions of the world.

I am a peace pastor in the Mennonite church and work as part of the advocacy team of Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace movement, at the United Nations. Mennonites and Catholic peace people take seriously the Sermon on the Mount.

Although North Korea and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, North Korea is a member of the United Nations and has diplomatic staff that live in New York and work out of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Mission to the United Nations. Some of my most important peacebuilding efforts in recent years have been reaching out and befriending North Korean diplomats and their families. North Koreans in the United States are restricted to a radius of 25 miles from Columbus Circle in New York City. My home, fortunately, is just within the permitted zone for North Korean diplomats.

 

Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding.

 

Some years ago, I invited the diplomats from the North Korean Mission to the U.N. for a picnic at my home, along with a South Korean Mennonite International Voluntary Exchange Program (IVEP) intern, a Korean-American Mennonite pastor friend and a few Korean American friends active in the peace movement. It was an amazing day, 20 North Korean diplomats, wives, children and grandchildren, fishing in the stream behind my home, eating, drinking, laughing and playing. There was no political talk or strategizing on that day (although those kinds of conversations did happen later, after trust had been established), just meeting the diplomats, their wives, children and grandchildren and enjoying each other’s company. It was through friendship and conversation that I learned that the North Koreans want the same things we do: safe communities for our families, health care and education for our children and grandchildren and meaningful and productive work for ourselves. At the end of the day, the senior North Korean ambassador came over to the young IVEP intern from South Korea and said, “This war has gone on too long. We really need to end the conflict and reunify our country.” The intern readily agreed.

Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding. The challenge in building relationships between Americans and Koreans from both the North and the South is formidable. North and South Korea do not have diplomatic relations with each other. Even phone, mail or email connections between the two Koreas is prohibited. The United States also does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. North Korea is one of the countries whose citizens are prohibited from traveling to the United States, and a U.S. travel ban makes it illegal for any American to travel to North Korea without a Special Validation Passport. The travel ban has eliminated all tourism, academic and cultural travel by Americans to North Korea, although Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee and a few other nongovernment organizations have received Special Validation Passports to travel to North Korea for small-scale humanitarian efforts. I have learned that personal encounter and face-to-face dialogue enhance understanding, dispels some of the stereotypes of the “other” and can even result in friendships that can lay the foundation for solving larger political problems. But with sanctions and travel restrictions, few Americans, South Koreans or others ever have an opportunity to meet a North Korean in person.

For the past two years, I have been working with religious leaders to organize a forum to bring together diplomats, scholars and peace activists from South Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan to meet with North Koreans. Our first challenge was to find a location where guests from around the world could meet personally with North Koreans. After considerable discussion we decided to organize our forum in New York at Columbia University, so North Korean diplomats at the U.N. could come to a location were others could meet them. We decided to organize the Global Peace Forum on Korea at the end of the week of the opening of the General Assembly of the U.N. with the hope that several scholars from Kim Il Sung University in North Korea would be able to come for the opening of the GA and participate in the peace forum. Unfortunately, both years we have organized this conference, none of our invited scholars from North Korea was able to get U.S. visas. But due to trust built through personal friendships, we did have full cooperation from North Korean U.N. diplomats. We invited more than 100 scholars, religious leaders, peace activists and a few government officials from South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States. I have been impressed by the fact that the participants of this forum paid their own way, often flying from Asia, for an opportunity to meet face-to-face and share ideas with North Koreans. U.N. officials who had also been invited commented that the Global Peace Forum on Korea was unique; it was the only meeting those officials had ever attended where the North Korean participants mingled and spoke freely with participants from the United States, South Korea and other nations.

 

Out of that amazing mix of scholars, religious leaders, peace activists and government officials, we reached a consensus that we all hoped would be a roadmap for government negotiations to follow.

 

Out of that amazing mix of scholars, religious leaders, peace activists and government officials, we reached a consensus that we all hoped would be a roadmap for government negotiations to follow: (1) ending the Korean War; (2) calling the United States and North Korea to take reciprocal steps to de-escalate tensions and normalize relations; (3) requesting that North Korean actions in disarmament be responded to with reciprocal U.S. lifting of economic sanctions; (4) calling for the creation of a nuclear-free zone on the Korean Peninsula as relations are normalized and sanctions against North Korea are lifted. With the failure of the Hanoi Summit and the United States blocking inter-Korean efforts to connect roads and railroads between their countries, we reaffirmed our roadmap for negotiations and chose the theme for this year, “Making Connections : Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.” The organizers continue to believe relationships between people across the national and ideological boundaries are the building blocks for the political consensus needed for building peace on the Korean Peninsula. Religious leaders gave strong support for this effort. Jim Winkler, president of the National Council of Churches, gave a keynote speech with warm greetings and encouragement from Cardinal Joseph Tobin, and Peter Prove, director of the International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, offered closing remarks. We also heard messages of support and encouragement from former President Jimmy Carter and Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.N. Undersecretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. The unique strength of the peace forum, however, was the personal involvement of the North Korean diplomats, who made themselves available to speak, listen and build relationships with the other participants. These relationships have the power to turn enemies into friends.

Doug Hostetter
is peace pastor at Evanston (Ill.) Mennonite Church, member of the Pax Christi International UN Advocacy Team and a Co-Chair of Global Peace Forum on Korea.

Love Your Enemies was first published in the December issue of The Mennonite, and is being reprinted with their permission.

Peace

Another Terrible Weapon The Nuclear Minority Refuses To Ban

By:  Jonathan Frerichs 

        UN representative for disarmament, Geneva, Pax Christi International           

        26 November 2019

This is an up-date about the effort to prohibit autonomous weapons. The opposition to a ban brings to mind the same apartheid-style dynamics which allow a few states to have nuclear weapons. Now there are signs of a similar double standard emerging around killer robots. Pax Christi International is a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

The CCW, a Geneva-based convention designed to prohibit especially bad weapons, has been discussing lethal robotic weapons since 2013.  Its findings mostly point to the urgent need to impose a pre-emptive ban on any weapon which would select and kill human beings on its own.

This year’s “debate” ended 14-16 November 2019 and the outcome was modest once again.

States parties to the CCW agreed to adopt a brief set of “guiding principles” developed over the last two years.  These are rather broad, for example, international law shall apply to all future weapons systems and humans are responsible and accountable for the use of weapons which have autonomous capabilities.  The CCW says it will aim to “operationalize” the principles in the next two years.

So little has been accomplished that news stories from previous CCW meetings could be recycled. “Yet again, a small group of military powers have shown an appalling lack of ambition and zero sense of urgency…on lethal autonomous weapons systems,” the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots said earlier in 2019, and much the same in 2018 as well.

Which states are blocking constructive action?  Russia, USA, Israel, United Kingdom and Australia, in the main.  All either have or rely on nuclear weapons.  They argue that existing international law is sufficient.  Yet they and other nuclear-dependent states haven’t fulfilled their legal obligation under the NPT to eliminate nuclear weapons.  They refuse to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which is largely based on International Humanitarian Law and reinforces the NPT.

Many of the other states in the CCW want new legal controls based on IHL.  The guardian of the laws of war, the International Committee of the Red Cross, is calling for new rules to address the legal, ethical and humanitarian concerns raised by autonomous weapons

The blockers also give short shrift to calls for rigorous application of International Human Rights Law to autonomous weapon systems.  Yet it was the UN Human Rights Council which first brought the issue of killer robots to the CCW out of concern for extra-judicial killings.

While a few powerful states dither and delay, technology is steadily advancing.  Weapons with algorithms that select and strike targets on their own are not much “smarter” than the self-driving cars being tested today.

Fortunately, support for common-sense controls and preventive measures is building–at the CCW and far beyond. Recent examples:

  • 30 countries plus the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 states are calling for a prohibition of fully autonomous weapons.
  • Austria, Brazil and Chile are calling for a CCW mandate to negotiate “a legally-binding instrument to ensure meaningful human control over the critical functions” of weapons systems.
  • In September 2018, the European Parliament called for negotiations of such a ban.
  • Foreign ministers of Germany and Belgium have called for a ban.
  • More than 60-percent of the public in 26 countries are opposed to the development of weapons that would select and attack targets on their own, according to a recent poll.
  • 4,500 AI experts and 116 CEOs of robotics companies have called on the United Nations to take action on robotic weapons systems.
  • More than 240 tech companies and 3,200 tech workers have pledged never to develop, produce or use autonomous weapons systems.
  • The Synod of the Protestant Church in Germany called for a ban on killer robots while the CCW was meeting in November.

The core of this majoritarian concern is to respect the moral threshold that machines must not be allowed to kill people.

Nuclear weapons pose a grave risk which a large majority of states have addressed unequivocally.  Killer robots impose a responsibility which many states are recognizing, which no state can escape and which all states must answer.

 

Peace

2019 Global Peace Forum Korea – “Making Connections: Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.”

By Doug Hostetter

UN Representative, Pax Christi International

Co-Chair Planning Committee, Global Peace Forum on Korea

Global Peace Forum Korea

The second Global Peace Forum on Korea, held at Columbia University in New York City on Saturday, September 28th 2019.  The forum brought together for a day of formal and informal discussion over a hundred scholars, religious leaders, and peace activists from the US, Russia, Canada and Vietnam with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) UN diplomats, and Members of the National Assembly (and numerous civil society activist) from the Republic of Korea (South Korea).  The theme this year was “Making Connections:  Global Challenges, Korea and Peaceful Coexistence.”   The meeting opened with a challenge from President Jimmy Carter.  “Thank you for coming together to build the international relationships and support that are necessary to complete this process and fulfill the vision and promise of the Singapore Summit for a ‘new era of peace and a peaceful land’ in Korea.”

Human relationships are the foundation of peacebuilding.  The challenge in building relationships between Americans and Koreans from both the North and South is formidable.  North and South Korea do not have diplomatic relations.  Even phone, mail or email connections between the two Koreas is prohibited.  The US also does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and North Korea is one of the countries whose citizens are prohibited from traveling to the US, and a US travel ban makes it illegal for any American to travel to North Korea without a “Special Validation Passport.”  The travel ban has eliminated all tourism, academic and cultural travel by American to North Korea, although Quakers, Mennonites and a few other non-government organizations have occasionally been allowed to travel to North Korea for small scale humanitarian efforts.  With sanctions and travel restrictions, few Americans, South Koreans or other people of the world have ever met a North Korean in person.  The Global Peace Forum on Korea was organized to remediate that problem, at least for the participants of the Forum.  ”Read more here”.