On Saturday 24 October, Honduras become the 50th state to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. That might be the first time you've ever heard of it, but it is a significant development in international law. When it enters into force in January next year, nuclear weapons will be banned, in the same way as chemical and biological weapons.
These things don't happen overnight. This treaty is a result of decades of campaigning from individuals and organisations around the world. Ever since the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago, the majority of the international community has been working to eliminate nuclear weapons, while the minority have held on to them, with their capacity to kill millions and destroy creation.
Christians have been working and praying for an end to nuclear weapons ever since 1945, and this year Christian CND is marking its 60th anniversary. Throughout much of the time nuclear weapons have been around, there have been deeply held convictions on both sides of the argument within the church.
The teachings of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament are clear that there will be no perfect peace until He returns and ends suffering and war, something for which humanity has been longing since the time of the Prophet Isaiah. This is a goal we must continue to work towards until Jesus returns.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus tells the gathered crowd, "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God." Our calling therefore is to be peacemakers, making peace both with God through Jesus, but also with our fellow humans. This isn't always easy, but as Galatians tells us, peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit living within us as believers.
There is obviously a limit to what individuals can do in the context of international disputes, and it can often feel daunting, but this treaty offers us hope and demonstrates the strength of feeling around the world in opposition to nuclear weapons.
God's creation is one of his many gifts to us, something which nuclear weapons threaten like no other human activity. We are able to enjoy the beauty and awesome wonder of His hand, from the trees and animals around us to the awesome power of volcanoes and the mysteries of space. Nuclear weapons are often cited alongside climate change as existential threats to our world, yet while the Church has been mobilised effectively to work on limiting the damaging effects of climate change, nuclear weapons have been seen by some as an issue best left to the politicians.
That can no longer be the case though. Christians can no longer stand back and leave leaders like Kim Jong-Un sit with their finger on the nuclear button, threatening to change of world and all our lives. It is time for believers to stand for peace and to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have suffered as a result of nuclear weapons, both in Japan and in the countless nuclear tests around the world throughout the second half of the 20th century.
The Church has been active in many of the states that have ratified the treaty to date. The Holy See was one of the first to do so and the Pacific Council of Churches urged states in the region to join; many of them have done so. At home, the Church of England passed a resolution in 2018 calling on the UK government to "respond positively" to the treaty.
Unfortunately, the UK, along with the eight other nuclear-armed states, have boycotted the treaty since the start of the negotiations in 2017. Successive governments in the UK have stated an ambition for the world to be free of nuclear weapons, stating that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is the way to do this. The NPT has been deadlocked for years, however, with no progress on the negotiations on disarmament which are called for.
This treaty offers a chance for peace, a chance to rebuild after the Covid-19 pandemic in a way which values every one of God's people and allows us to life our live free of the fear of nuclear annihilation. Christian CND will continue to work and pray for a nuclear weapons-free world, and I hope you will join us as we do so.
Russell Whiting is development manager at Christian CND.