Pax Christi working to urge UK participation in UN meetings on Nuclear Weapon Ban (20 March 2017)
Today, a YouGov poll indicates that 75% of UK adults think the Government should be represented at the up-coming negotiations at the United Nations in New York to work towards a legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons. The Government have indicated that they will not attend.
Since the negotiations at the end of 2016, Pax Christi British section and members, together with Pax Christi International, have been lobbying the non-supporting countries, urging that they take part in the negotiations. Pax Christi British section has written to the Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and to the UK Permanent Disarmament representative to the UN, Matthew Rowland, suggesting that a nuclear weapon ban would bring us in-line with other bans and prohibitions on other inhumane weapons systems – bans that the UK has affirmed, biological, chemical and so on. International bans and treaties of this kind have huge moral and legal significance in creating peace in our world.
Under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the UK Government has already promised to negotiate ‘in good faith’ the total elimination of our nuclear weapons. In 2010 the UK Government gave an unequivocal undertaking that it was committed to fulfilling this promise.
Responses have been extremely disappointing. Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi reports that the UK Government will not take part in the negotiations. The Government argues that productive results on nuclear disarmament can only be achieved through a consensus-based approach. Pax Christi argue that consensus based approached have failed to date to achieve results and that even the NPT was not negotiated in a consensus manner. Ms Gaffney said “This decision gives a very poor message to the majority countries who support the ban negotiations. Nuclear Weapon States surely have an even greater responsibility to be around the table and take a legal and moral lead. A ban treaty will create clear structures and timetables for multilateral disarmament and so greatly increase the goal of nuclear weapon abolition”.
Call for a ban has also been articulated clearly by Pope Francis on the occasion of the 2014 Vienna conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons: “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home. The security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others, for if peace, security and stability are not established globally, they will not be enjoyed at all.”
Christians gather for Ash Wednesday challenge to nuclear war preparations. (1 March 2017 )
Cold and rain did not deter more than 80 Christians, including a group of Year 7 students and staff from Trinity School, Leamington Spa, from giving voice to their message to the Government: nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal.
This was the 35th Ash Wednesday witness, organised by Pax Christi, at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Whitehall. Gathering in a nearby park, ashes were blessed and distributed by Fr Joe Ryan, Chair of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission, and Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi invited those taking part to pray that our Government will change its mind and attend the up-coming meetings at the UN in New York to begin negotiations on a
nuclear weapon ban treaty.
Leaving the park, the participants stopped three times around the Ministry of Defence building, first for prayers of lamentation, for the damage caused by war and nuclear war preparations; then, facing the MoD building in a line that stretched the length of the building, they sang Ubi Caritas – an invitation to those who work on nuclear war
preparations to invest in work of love and mercy. Finally they gathered at the front entrance of the MoD for prayers of repentance which involved everyone if marking out the word REPENT in Ash and praying for a change of heart and mind that would take us away from our dependence on nuclear weapons. In their procession they carried statements from Pope Francis and other Christian leaders on the immorality of nuclear weapons.
The witness was supported by the London Catholic Worker and Christian CND. Earlier in the morning of Ash Wednesday LCW members Henrietta Cullinan and Fr Martin Newell prayed then marked the building with ash
and charcoal with words from scripture, ‘Let your hearts be broken’ and with the message, ‘ Support the UN nuclear ban’. There were no arrests.
In Liverpool 30-35 gathered for prayers and a procession thorugh the city. They received a message of support from the Anglican Bishop of LIverpool, Paul Bayes. Jan Harper who coordinates the Pax Christi group gave an interview on the Radio Merseyside programme Daybreak on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. A similar event took place at the Faslane Naval Base, Scotland, organised by Glasgow Catholic Worker.
Here you can download the liturgy that was be used on 1 March
Download Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty briefing