A report from the recent Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament

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Kevin Kho, graduate student, Department of Theology, December 12, 2017.

On November 10–11, 2017, the Holy See hosted a conference entitled “Perspectives for a World Free From Nuclear Weapons and For Integral Disarmament.” Attended by eleven Noble Peace Laureates, experts in the field of nuclear weapons, church officials, diplomats, international organizations, and students, this was the first international gathering on nuclear disarmament since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was signed by 122 countries. This treaty prohibits the countries who signed from producing or possessing nuclear weapons. The conference was a venue for experts to discuss a way forward from the treaty which was not agreed to by NATO and countries that continue to hold and produce nuclear weapons.

The work of nuclear disarmament is intrinsically linked to the promotion of peace and integral human development, and human flourishing. The possession of nuclear weapons affects much more than the threat of destruction. It affects the relationships between nations as the countries with nuclear weapons are seen to have a power over others because of their ability to destroy. The possession of nuclear weapons has also affected many other aspects of society such as education, poverty, and healthcare, where the care and maintenance of these weapons take away from programs that foster integral human development.

In Pope Francis’ address to the conference, he stated that “the threat of their [nuclear weapons] use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned.” This statement by Pope Francis was new and very significant because it was not only condemning the use of nuclear weapons, but even their possession. This was received with elation by conference attendees who agreed that ridding the world of nuclear weapons was an essential step towards peace. Peace cannot be attained through fear, especially through the looming threat of nuclear destruction. Rather, Pope Francis encourages countries to “foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue.” It is through respectful dialogue that the world can move towards a greater peace.

Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN representative at the conference stated that “Peace does not depend on arms, but on dialogue, unity and respect for each other.” This is not just a call for diplomats and government officials to engage in these kinds of talks with other nations, but also appeals to local communities.

Peace begins with each and every person, through disarmament of the heart in recognizing our connection with others and rejecting artificial borders established by the structures of the world. The realization of this connection of all human being regardless of race, culture, or social status can lead us towards more loving dialogue with one another. The choices that we make everyday can lead towards a more just and peaceful world. 

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