UK faith leaders call for new initiatives to bring an end to nuclear weapons

  • 26 UK faith leaders sign statement to end nuclear weapons
  • Read the full statement  here    
  • Read the signatories' letter published in The Times newspaper today (paywall)       

Faith leaders across the UK have signed a statement calling on nuclear weapons states to join with other states to implement new approaches to eliminate nuclear arsenals.  

Ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference meeting from 27 April to 22 May 2015, senior representatives from eight faiths in the UK, including Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist, have given their backing to a statement calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The faith leaders argue that nuclear arsenals "violate the principle of dignity for every human being that is common to each of our faith traditions".

The statement urges nuclear weapons states to "develop a robust plan of action that will lead us to a nuclear weapon free world" and stresses that "it is necessary to move beyond the division of our world into recognised nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states".

The statement has been supported by the Revd Dr Chris Ellis, President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Rt Revd John Chalmers, Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the Revd Kenneth G. Howcroft and Gill Dascombe, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference; John Ellis, Moderator of the United Reformed Church and Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain.

Other signatories include the Most Revd Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool; Maulana Shahid Raza OBE, British Muslim Forum; Bharti Tailor, The Hindu Forum of Europe;  Lord (Indarjit) Singh of Wimbledon, Network of Sikh Organisations and Ven B. Seelawimala, London Buddhist Vihara.

In recent years, the UK government has strongly resisted proposals for negotiation of a new treaty that would lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. In 2010, the UK, along with the US, Russia, China and France, rejected an invitation from the UN Secretary General for talks around a five-point plan on nuclear disarmament. In 2013, the same states stayed away from the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament.  

The statement from UK faith leaders follows the pledge of the Government of Austria to work to fill the gap in international law with respect to nuclear weapons. Fifty other states have also indicated their intention for nuclear weapons to be treated in a similar way to chemical and biological weapons under international law.

The Revd Kenneth G. Howcroft, President of the Methodist Conference, said: "The joint statement demonstrates to the UK government the strong desire on the part of faith communities for concerted action on nuclear weapons. His Holiness, Pope Francis, has recently spoken of the need to declare such weapons as illegitimate under international law. As faith communities, we urge the UK government to use its considerable influence to build support for new initiatives on disarmament."  

 

Notes:    

1.The full text of the statement is here and the list of signatories can be read here.

2. Some of those supporting this statement do so in their personal capacity and not on behalf of the faith group to which they are affiliated.

3. In December, an international faith leaders statement called for a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons without delay.

4. Read the signatories' letter published in The Times on 13 March 2015 here (paywall).

5. Kenneth Howcroft is available for interview.

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