Churches disappointed by weak commitments on nuclear disarmament

An alliance of nine UK Churches has expressed disappointment atthe failure of nuclear weapons states to agree deadlines foractions on nuclear disarmament.

While the Churches welcomed progress made on discussions on theMiddle East and a declaration by the UK on number of warheads, theywere highly critical of the refusal of the nuclear powers to agreetimeframes for future discussions at the conference in New York,which ended today.

Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, said, "Nuclear weaponsare a legacy of the cold war era and have little relevance to thethreats that we face today. There is a growing recognition thathaving one set of rules for some nations, and a different set ofrules for everyone else is unsustainable. Moving towards theelimination of nuclear weapons is not only morally right but thebest possible guarantee for our nation's security."

The Churches' campaign, entitled Now is the Time, calls on theBritish Government to make a commitment to achieving a world freeof nuclear weapons, building a safer future for all.

Revd David Gamble, President of Methodist Conference, said:"Consensus on non-proliferation is a major achievement, and onethat reflects a growing understanding that nuclear weapons are athreat, not a guarantee, to our security. But in failing to agree atimeframe for further discussions, world leaders appear simply tobe paying lip service to the concept of nuclear disarmament. Wedidn't expect the conference to produce a detailed plan for banningnuclear weapons, but we were looking for a commitment to moveforward on the issue. The International Commission on NuclearNon-proliferation and Disarmament and a whole host of others, fromNPT state parties, former ambassadors and NGOs have all producedversions of a road map that could take us to zero nuclear weapons.The nuclear states stand alone in shying away from discussion ofthe detail."

Revd Pat Took, President Designate of the Baptist Union of GreatBritain, said: "If the nuclear armed powers do not go further todemonstrate that they are prepared to relinquish nuclear weapons,then the existing international commitments on non-proliferationcould unravel, leaving us all in a much more dangerous and insecuresituation. The call to work towards a world free of nuclear weaponscomes not only from the majority of the world's governments butalso overwhelmingly from people of all nations. I pray that we willraise our voices loud enough such that our governments have nochoice but to be spurred into action."

The three church leaders were a part of a delegation that delivereda petition to the Prime Minister at Downing Street on Wednesday.The petition urged the UK to declare a 'no first use' policy and tosupport the process for negotiation of a new internationalagreement leading to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The alliance includes the Church of England, the Church ofScotland, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain,the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the United ReformedChurch, the International Affairs Department of the CatholicBishops Conference of England and Wales, the Catholic BishopsConference of Scotland and the Archbishop of the Church inWales.