Church Leaders Make Case for Nukes Abolition Amid N. Korea Tests

Correction appended:

Though seismologists are still unsure as to how large the blast was from last week's nuclear test in North Korea, analysts and church leaders agree that there is more than legitimate reason for concern.

"An explosion like this in a downtown area would be a horrible event," geologist Paul Richards of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., told USA Today.

And adding to concerns is the increasing possibility that North Korea could send a nuclear device on a missile, especially as the communist regime pushes forward this week with preparations to test-fire more missiles – including one that U.S. military officials say is capable of striking the U.S.

"The World Council of Churches is deeply troubled by North Korea's nuclear test and profoundly concerned for the people of North Korea and surrounding countries," stated the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, the WCC's general secretary.

But while the United Nations is working to expand sanctions against North Korea and enforce existing sanctions imposed after Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006, opponents of nuclear weapons are stressing that that unilateral disarmament is not the solution but a "multilateral, verifiable, and total elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth" is.

"There is no place for nuclear arsenals in international affairs – whether by a country like North Korea or by the eight other self-appointed nuclear powers that would have others believe their security requires weapons of mass destruction," said Kobia, whose church organization brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, a Baptist minister who founded the Two Futures Project to educate and mobilize Christians on the issue of nuclear weapons, would likely agree.

"A two-tiered world of nuclear haves and have-nots will eventually lead to uncontrollable proliferation and an undeterrable terrorist bomb which would not only cause mass casualties but catastrophic economic effects that would leave no corner of the planet untouched," said Stevens during a recent teleconference for his faith-based coalition.

"We must eliminate these weapons, and we can eliminate these weapons," he added.

Though calls for nuclear disarmament have typically come from more liberal Christian groups, such as the WCC, an increasing number of evangelicals have more recently joined in chorus over the issue, asserting it as an issue as deserving of attention as abortion or poverty.

"As Christians who believe in the profound value of life, we should be at the front of the line calling for the elimination of these weapons," said Lynn Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., during the Two Futures Project teleconference in April.

"To me it's part of a consistent epic of life," she added.

Aside from Hybels and her husband, megachurch leader Bill Hybels, the Two Futures Project has received endorsements from a number of highly-respected Christian leaders, including Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Cizik, senior fellow at the U.N. Foundation; Andy Crouch, senior editor of Christianity Today International; and the Rev. Dr. John Stott, one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974.

"The response from these faith leaders have been nothing short of astonishing – revealing a critical mass of support for nuclear weapon abolition from across the political and theological spectrum," commented project founder Wigg-Stevenson.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, there are nine countries in the world today that possess nuclear weapons. Of the nine, four – North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel – were not present at a meeting at the United Nationals last month on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which seeks to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

Despite the absence of the remaining four nuclear powers, WCC leader Kobia said he was encouraged by the "remarkably positive meeting" on "the world's most important arms control treaty."

"Many of the governments present are now speaking of cooperation to move the world beyond the nuclear threats and instabilities that developed during and since the Cold War," Kobia reported.

In concluding, the ecumenical leader said he was optimistic about the international community's re-kindling of the vision for a world free of nuclear weapons

"It is our hope and prayer that – in the Korean peninsula and globally – governments and civil society including faith-based groups will work resolutely to make this widely welcomed vision a reality," Kobia stated.

Correction: Monday, July 20, 2009:

An article on Tuesday, June 2, 2009, about a nuclear test in North Korea incorrectly included Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, as among those who have endorsed the Two Futures Project. According to Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, the founder of the Two Futures Project, Colson has not given an official endorsement of the new movement but has given them permission to use his previous public statements on the nuclear issue in support of their efforts.

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