I recently posted remarks made by the Pope and the Vatican at a nuclear disarmament conference in Vienna, Austria. The conference was called The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons and was held on December 8th and 9th. It followed meetings in Vienna hosted by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Vienna in December 6th and 7th.
Christopher Weeramantry was addressing a session on uniting all faiths against nuclear weapons when he said, "Never was there a greater need than now for all the religions to combine, to pull their wisdom and to give the benefit of that combined, huge repository of wisdom to international law and to the world." Rejecting the argument that nuclear weapons and Mutually Assured Destruction have prevented another world war, Weeramantry said that only blind luck had prevented a catastrophic nuclear accident or a global nuclear war. He went on to say that nuclear weapons "offend every single principle of religion," on a panel filled with leaders from different religions.
Despite the many differences between the beliefs and practices of different religions, all the members of the panel declared that similar values are inherent in all religions. One member of the panel, Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said "It is not a question of whether you believe, it is the question of whether we are going to wait and see the destruction of our planet." Ceric went on to say that there are common moral and ethical standards that define the goals and values of humanity. He claimed that the importance and role of religious communities is greater than ever in helping the world find peace and security.
Another member of the panel, Akemi Bailey-Haynie, national women’s leader of the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International-USA, remarked that because her mother had survived the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, she had a personal connection to the issue of nuclear weapons. She went on to say, "When nuclear weapons are considered a deterrent or viable option in warfare, it seems from a mind-set that fundamentally denies that all people possess infinite potential. No one has the right to take away a precious life of another human being.” She also said, "As a second generation survivor, I deeply feel the sorrow, as well as the outrage, born of not being able to yet live in a time when the most inhumane of weapons, nuclear weapons, have been banned."
Desmond Tutu sent a video message to the conference to support ICAN's work. He said that a total ban on nuclear weapons needed to be implemented as soon as possible to preclude the possibility of anything like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ever happening again.
Ela Gandhi, grandaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, also spoke at the panel session. Mahatma Gandhi who championed the non-violent civil disobedience that led to the creation of the modern state of India, said in 1946, "The atom bomb mentality is immoral, unethical, addictive and only evil can come from it." Ela Gandhi pointed out that if one country possessed nuclear weapons, its enemies would feel that they had to have nuclear weapons also.
Religions are often criticized as having been responsible for wars and persecutions down through history. It is encouraging to see leaders from different religions joining together to push for nuclear disarmament.