LONDON – An alliance of nine British Churches has joined the World Council of Churches in calling on governments to drastically reduce their nuclear arsenals.
The alliance includes the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, and the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
Their campaign, Now is the Time, is pressing governments to take steps towards securing a nuclear-free world by making the use or possession of nuclear weapons illegal. They want all bomb-grade material to be placed under international control and the non-proliferation regime to be strengthened.
Their call comes ahead of an international conference in New York in May to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which commits member states to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Tom Butler Lord Bishop of Southwark, said: "We cannot tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism by simply rehearsing old doctrines of defense. The simple fact is that more nuclear weapons do not make for a safer world. We must instead turn to the universal adoption of common rules and standards, enforced by international treaties.
"It is crucial that all nuclear armed states now demonstrate a willingness to redefine their concepts of security."
Steve Hucklesby, policy advisor for the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union, Methodist and United Reformed Churches, said nuclear weapons were divisive and counter-productive to a sustainable peace between nations.
He called on the international community to seize the opportunity for greater commitment to a nuclear free world in light of the recent commitment by the U.S. and Russia to reduce their stocks of nuclear missiles and warheads.
Hucklesby said their commitment had "injected new life" into non-proliferation and disarmament negotiations.
The churches' campaign is being supported by Baroness Shirley Williams, advisor to the prime minister on nuclear proliferation. She said the proliferation of nuclear weapons was one of the greatest threats to the survival of mankind.
"We have only a few years, at most a decade or so, to control and eventually abolish nuclear weapons," she said.
"The support of concerned citizens in the U.K. and elsewhere is vital. The churches have already played a crucial part in breaking the bonds of debt on poor countries and their leadership on this issue is equally important and urgently needed."