UK intern heads to Hiroshima for conference on nuclear weapons

18 July 2019

 An intern working on issues of peace and justice on behalf of four UK national Churches will be visiting Hiroshima in Japan at the end of July to attend the ICAN Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Global Security Conference. The city of Hiroshima was devastated by an atomic bomb in 1945, the first of only two occasions a nuclear weapon has been used during war.

Will Fremont-Barnes, aged 24, from London is one of 14 young people from around the world, all aged 25 or younger, who will be discussing nuclear weapons at the conference organised by the Hiroshima Prefecture and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) who won the Nobel Peace prize in 2017. For almost a year, Will has been an intern with JPIT, the Joint Public Issues Team, which campaigns for peace and justice on behalf of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Church.

 At the conference, there will be seven attendees from nation states with nuclear weapons and seven from those without. During the visit, representatives will meet with atomic bomb survivors, diplomats and UN representatives. The representatives will visit the Peace Park and Museum, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation and attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony. The Methodist Church in Britain and the World Council of Churches is funding the trip.

Will’s visit to Hiroshima highlights the importance of faith-based organisations in these conversations, speaking with a distinctive voice alongside those with different interests and expertise. Will commented:

 “Going to Hiroshima reminds us of the very real danger posed by nuclear weapons and is an opportunity to exchange ideas with other young people who are passionate about moving towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.

 “Today’s young people have not grown up with the imminent threat that existed during the Cold War. This makes it important to communicate a sense of urgency, making the case to our peers and governments that nuclear weapons are neither necessary nor morally acceptable. More and more countries are embracing the non-nuclear agenda and there is a growing conversation about the difference we can make in how we invest our money as citizens and organisations.”

 In applying to attend the conference, Will detailed the Methodist Church’s participation in reviewing the investment policies and practices of major UK banks and pension providers regarding arms and the environment. This autumn, the work will result in the publication of a report to provide guidance and recommendations for Church members around ethical investments.