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Threat of nuclear war “is a sin”, World Council of Churches’ chief tells economic leaders

Posted on: January 22, 2018 2:13 PM
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, takes part in a peace march in Oslo, Norway, in December 2017.
Photo Credit: Albin Hillert / WCC
Related Categories: Davos, Global, Nuclear, war, WCC, World Economic Forum

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, will take an anti-nuclear message with him when he travels to Davos, Switzerland, tomorrow, for a meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Writing in advance of the meeting, Dr Tveit says that he “can think of no greater antithesis to this vision of shared life and responsibility, no greater obscenity against it, than the continued existence of and political and social support for nuclear weapons. . . It is time to say together that this is wrong. It is time to call it a sin, both using and having nuclear weapons.”

He said: “There is absolutely no moral justification whatsoever for using them. The time has come to say together that for the sake of the one humanity there is no moral ground on which we can keep them and threaten one another with them.”

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which begins tomorrow (Tuesday) in its usual home of Davos in Switzerland, brings together heads of state and government, bankers, financiers and business people. This year’s theme is “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.” This year, at its 48th meeting, participants are being challenged to find ways to reaffirm international cooperation on crucial shared interests, such as international security, the environment and the global economy in the context of rising geostrategic competition between states.

In a 2,000 word article in advance of the meeting, Tveit says: “Nuclear weapons are designed to destroy entire cities, with every man, woman, child and every living creature in them. Moreover, they destroy the natural environment itself, their deadly radioactive legacy lingering and poisoning the very earth for millennia. They are the ‘dumbest,’ most evil weapons. They destroy what is built up for the common good through politics, through the economy, through civil society. Everything.

“Yet they were the only category of weapons of mass destruction that had not been banned by international treaty. Until now. The adoption last year of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations gives the nations of the world a salutary and long overdue opportunity to create a new normative, ethical and moral standard against nuclear weapons – against any development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use or threat of use of such weapons – and for environmental remediation and assistance to the victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

“Unfortunately, churches and Christians have also been among those providing tacit or explicit support for the maintenance of nuclear arsenals. We have ourselves taken shelter under the dark umbrella of “nuclear deterrence.” But nuclear deterrence depends upon the willingness to actually use these weapons. I reject as incompatible with the most basic understandings of Christian responsibility in the world any willingness to contemplate the use of even a single nuclear weapon, under any circumstances.”

Founded in 1948, the World Council of Churches is an ecumenical fellowship of churches which brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches, representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries. Its member churches include many Anglican provinces. It has been a vocal advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons.