In the historic port city of Yalta, located on the Crimean Peninsula, I visited the site where Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, in February of 1945, concluded negotiations ending World War II.
These leaders and their top advisers were also present at the creation of the United Nations and other instruments of international negotiation and non-military cooperation. Tragically, the creation of the “Cold War” was underway soon after.
Confessing our own violence would not deny violence committed against us. Rather, an apology could call attention to war atrocities of the past and present on all sides. Admitting that the deadliest bombings in history had selfish strategic motivations, admitting that life was so thoroughly devalued and destroyed for no greater good (as if a greater good could exist) could force people on all sides to rethink the “necessities” of other wars past and present. Debunking one war lie could lead to the debunking of many war lies. And governments built on violence, powers upheld and strengthened by the looming threat of death, seek to extinguish the light of truth.
Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met for talks on Jan. 26 — the first such encounter since 1999 — in a private meeting in which the pontiff pressed Rouhani on fostering Middle East peace and countering terrorism and arms trafficking.
The 39-minute meeting in the apostolic palace also touched on the landmark deal on Iran’s nuclear capacity that has been praised by the pontiff, and the two leaders discussed the situation of the church in Iran and interreligious dialogue.
The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by any civilized standards, represented one of the moral low-points in human history. After all, by very conservative estimates, 135,000 people died from the atomic blasts—most of them civilians, the victims of the intentional targeting of cities. Think about that—these weren’t military targets, but cities full of men, women, and children, going about their lives, destroyed in seconds by the most destructive weapons ever invented.
But the point of memorializing isn’t about the past. It’s about ensuring such things happen “never again.”
We have a deal. And many of us in the faith community are relieved.
After months of negotiations, missing deadlines, and many stressful final days in Vienna, Iran has agreed to halt its nuclear weapons program for a decade or more, and allow credible international agencies to significantly monitor its behavior. In return, sanctions against Iran will be lifted once it demonstrates compliance on its end. Meanwhile, the West is hopeful that a younger Iranian generation might begin to liberalize the country, prompting a fuller entry into the modern world over the next 10 years. That hope remains to be seen.
Many of us in the faith community have called for diplomacy instead of the only plausible alternative: war with Iran.
Atsuyoshi Fujiwara is a professor of theology at Aoyama Gakuin University, and founding pastor of Covenant of Grace Church, in Tokyo. He is the author most recently of Theology of Culture in a Japanese Context.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS are unacceptable weapons. By design, they aim to cause large-scale and long-term damage not only to enemy troops but to civilians as well.
Humanity has successfully banned and eliminated less devastating weapons, but curiously we have come to live with the idea that some countries are entitled to keep nuclear weapons. Worse, we have come to accept that their production is nothing to be ashamed of and that investing in these companies is sound financial practice.
Investing in genocide is inexcusable, and it is time we tell our banks, pension funds, and insurance companies to stop financing the bomb.
To that end, the Dutch peace organization PAX, for which I’m a senior researcher, produces an annual report called Don’t Bank on the Bomb, providing a detailed overview of financial institutions that invest in companies building nuclear weapons. But the report does more: It highlights positive examples of financial institutions actively divesting from nuclear weapons producers, showing that divestment is not only a feasible strategy but also a socially responsible and ethically sound way to watch over the money of clients. Divesting from nuclear weapons is not rocket science.
Campaigning for divestment helps to curtail and eliminate nuclear weapons in more than one way. First, it helps to further stigmatize nuclear weapons. Most people are unaware that their savings help to finance the bomb, and when this is pointed out to them, most people are uneasy or even appalled by the idea. By providing customers with the facts, we stimulate their readiness to take it up with their banks and pension funds and give them notice to divest from these inhumane weapons. This stigmatization of nuclear weapons is more important than we may think. No weapon has ever been eliminated before it was outlawed. And no weapon is outlawed without first becoming stigmatized.
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A sweeping coalition of Catholic leaders is calling on lawmakers to embrace Obama’s proposed deal with Iran to scale back the country’s nuclear program, insisting the plan is a good one and asking Congress to back off attempts to kill the agreement.