“THIS WILL BE A historic moment,” announced Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez on July 6, the day before 122 countries adopted the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a legally binding agreement to outlaw nuclear weapons—and a major step toward their complete elimination. (Sixty-nine nations refused to vote, including all the nuclear weapon states and all NATO members except the Netherlands.)
“I have been waiting for this day for seven decades, and I am overjoyed that it has finally arrived,” said Setsu-ko Thurlow, a renowned antinuclear activist and survivor of the U.S. nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
Parties to the treaty are prohibited from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, or stock-piling nuclear weapons. The treaty also creates, for the first time, obligations to support the victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, as well as remediation of environmental damage caused by nuclear weapons.
Ten days before Donald Trump's inauguration, the former mayor of Hiroshima sent the president-elect a letter calling on the incoming U.S. administration to lead on nuclear non-use in Northeast Asia.
"Keenly aware that your decisions on matters related to nuclear weapons will affect everybody in the world and especially those of us living in Hiroshima, we, Hiroshima citizens and hibakusha (A-bomb survivors), expect these decisions to be wise and peaceable," Tadatoshi Akiba, Hiroshima's former mayor, wrote.
I was glad to see “Convicted of the Gospel” by Darlene Nicgorski included in the September/October issue. The “ministry of sanctuary” that she mentioned is an important and timely way to show the world we are Christians through our love. I have been lobbying my members of Congress and letting them know why my faith motivates my advocacy. The faith voice is crucial to immigration reform’s success and is necessary if we want any reforms to reflect our beliefs in human dignity, equality, and justice. I hope that the church around the country will join in the sanctuary movement, whether it is through advocacy, charity, or sheltering those who face the immediate threat of deportation.
You cannot reform the police state or our culture of incarceration (“Black and Blue,” by Ryan Hammill, September/October 2016) without a critique of our country’s values that proliferate fear and aggression. It’s how we were built and how we’ve sustained our way of life. Until then, taxpayers need to demand transparency from law enforcement, stop the flow of tax dollars to militarize them, and advocate for laws to protect citizens—especially citizens of color.
Prophets On the Loose
I read about the Tennessee weapons plant protest (“An 82-Year-Old Nun Did What?” by Rosalie Riegle, September/October 2016) in the news when it happened. I appreciate the update. I did not know that the “prophets of Oak Ridge” were released. Few realize the danger we all face; nuclear war cannot be allowed to happen. Pray for peace and the destruction of these weapons.
“Why did you, American Mother of the Year, commit civil disobedience in front of the Trident nuclear submarine?” a reporter asked the white haired, 78-year-old woman as she left the courthouse.
The woman, accused of being in a little boat blocking a nuclear submarine, answered without a moment’s hesitation.
“I did it for the children of the world,” she said.
Like many of my millennial peers, I was barely in diapers when the Cold War ended, never practiced fallout drills in school, and only recently learned what those yellow-and-black signs on old buildings meant. As a kid, if I thought about nukes at all, it was in a passive tense, World War II-history sort of way. In other words: not my problem.
But as we mark the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — when U.S. aircrafts dropped bombs on two Japanese cities, killing 135,000 people, by conservative estimates — I spent some time in the Sojourners archives trying to fill the gaps in my nuclear education. Here’s what I found.
I WAS SITTING in the wrong end of a police wagon the first time I questioned nuclear weapons. Technically, it was a school bus, but it served the same purpose: hauling scores of protesters to the county holding center where we would await booking for our trespasses.
We had been protesting abortion. I was thinking about nuclear weapons because a couple of those in the bus were peace activists who had long rap sheets from years of anti-war protests. I, on the other hand, was a Republican-voting, independent Baptist church-attending, conservative-leaning, law-abiding (well, until now) kind of Christian. I was awed—and grateful—that these peaceniks would join the likes of me in common cause against another kind of violence.
My new friends adhered to the “seamless garment” philosophy, also called the consistent life ethic, one committed to the protection of all human life, whether from war, poverty, racism, capital punishment, euthanasia, or abortion. One of them gave me a button that read “Peace begins in the womb,” and I pinned it to the bottom of the black leather motorcycle jacket I used to wear in those days.
A few years and many more abortion protests later, I was starting a local chapter of Feminists for Life, attending an Episcopal church, heading up a small private school in the inner city, teaching at a Jesuit college, and reading the poetry of Father Daniel Berrigan, the famous Vietnam-era anti-war activist who was now being arrested for protesting abortion.
But I wasn’t thinking much more about nuclear bombs.