Nuclear Weapons

Why the Iran Deal Is a Good Option — and a Christian One

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. 

Divest from Nuclear Weapons: Don't Bank On the Bomb

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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Children of Holocaust Survivors More Anxious About Iran Nuclear Threat

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

Ultra-orthodox Jews visit Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

As Israelis mark Holocaust Memorial Day on April 15, a study by researchers at Bar-Ilan University has found that the adult children of Holocaust survivors are more fearful than their mainstream peers about the threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Given that many studies over the decades have found that children of Holocaust survivors are deeply affected by their parents’ traumatic experiences, Amit Shrira, the study’s author, set out to discover whether these second-generation survivors were more anxious over a potential Iranian bomb than others of their generation. His study was published in Psychological Trauma, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

Shrira compared the feelings of 63 children of Holocaust survivors whose parents lived under a Nazi or pro-Nazi regime to those of 43 children whose parents either fled to unoccupied countries or immigrated to Israel.

The study found that second-generation survivors “exhibit greater preoccupation with the Iranian nuclear threat” than the comparison group.

Hope but Verify: The Iran Nuclear Framework

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Agreement announcement on Iran nuclear talks April 2 in Laussane. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

For Christians, Easter is not just a day — it is a season, and, indeed, a way of life. This week is Easter: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and so on. Likewise, hope — the message of Easter — is not a feeling, but rather a decision — a choice we make day after day. Hope isn’t easy, but the decision to hope keeps the world going.

Now we have a choice to make: a decision whether to pursue a tough diplomatic process for peace to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The United States and Iran — along with the U.K., Germany, France, Russia, and China — now have the beginning framework of a deal that could accomplish just that. But we would have to give it a chance. Much has to be worked out by the June 30 deadline, and it won’t be easy.

Should we give this hope for peace a chance? I believe Christians should answer yes. Here’s why.

Americans of Faith Must Reconsider Stands on Nuclear Weapons

Gas masks of World War II. Image via RNS/shutterstock.com

Gas masks of World War II. Image via RNS/shutterstock.com

Setsuko Thurlow was 13 when “progress” came to Hiroshima in a white-hot flash. In the dark silence following the nuclear bomb blast, Thurlow recalls children crying, “Mama, help me. God, help me.”

Her sister lived for four days. Many of her 351 dying schoolmates “looked like skeletons with skin hanging from their bones.”

They perished in agony.

Today, Thurlow and other survivors travel the globe, sharing their stories with a new generation for which nuclear weapons are an afterthought — seemingly a hypothetical and abstract threat.

The end of the Cold War had a mixed effect on the nuclear equation. Through dogged diplomacy and effective institutions, disarmament continues, though at a slower pace in recent years. There are now 10,000 operational nuclear warheads in the world, down from a high of 64,000 in 1986.

But the specter of nuclear terrorism and regional conflicts between nuclear weapons states makes nuclear weapons even more dangerous in our international system. Deterrence theory, which governed strategic thinking during the Cold War, is a much less compelling framework today.

Thankfully, most states have forsworn these armaments. Nuclear weapons are not vital to any state’s legitimate security interest. No state or NGO has the capacity to respond to the unfathomable humanitarian crisis that would follow an accidental or intentional use of a nuclear weapon.

Thus a growing global consensus now acknowledges the extreme risk nuclear weapons pose.

Pope John XXIII stated unequivocally in his 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” “Nuclear weapons must be banned.”

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