Catholic peace group Pax Christi has warned the world is “at a tipping point” in the effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons.

– A lesson from the coronavirus: “Science must not be ignored under the guise of ‘national security'”

“Tensions between the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising; the risk of nuclear use is growing; billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade nuclear weapons; and key agreements that have kept nuclear competition in check are in serious jeopardy”, read an appeal published on the Pax Christi website May 11 and signed by the peace organisation along with 83 other international NGOs.

Blaming the scale of the global coronavirus crisis on “multiple political failures” by which governments “ignored and dismissed” scientists’ warnings about a possible pandemic, Pax Christi and its fellow co-signers urged the world to learn a key lesson from the outbreak with respect to the risk of nuclear war: “that science must not be ignored under the guise of ‘national security’ policies that put profit before people and privilege the most powerful”.

– A call for “new and bolder leadership” on the elimination of nuclear weapons

The occasion for the NGOs’ appeal was this August’s 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings by the US of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the 25th anniversary of the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NGOs’ message to states was that although global support for the NPT is strong, the long-term viability of the Treaty cannot be taken for granted.

Lamenting the postponement due to the coronavirus of the NPT Review Conference, Pax Christi and the other peace groups warned that the longer consensus-based non-proliferation decisions remain unimplemented, “the less weight the Treaty and its obligations will have”.

The signatories furthermore alerted that “the grave state of global affairs and the rising risk of nuclear conflict and arms racing requires new and bolder leadership from responsible states”.

“The risk of nuclear weapon use is all too high and is growing, particularly as offensive cyber operations and artificial intelligence introduce unprecedented uncertainty into the global security environment”, the groups continued in their appeal.

Pax Christi and its fellow co-signers concluded by dismissing arguments that the “environment” around the world at the present time isn’t right for nuclear disarmament by insisting that “responsible actors everywhere are rising to the challenge”.

“The current situation requires new and bolder leadership from responsible states to work together to build majority support for a plan of action, […] to create much needed momentum for further progress on disarmament, and to save humanity from the scourge of nuclear war”, the groups argued.

– Alarm bells also in the Netherlands and Germany

The Pax Christi call for an intensified commitment to nuclear disarmament came as the Dutch Churches and a German bishop also warned against the dangers of nuclear deterrence and a full-scale nuclear arms race.

The Council of Churches in the Netherlands, for its part, said May 6 that it was “deeply concerned” about the ramifications for non-proliferation of the postponement of the NPT Review Conference, and reiterated the “unconditional ‘no’ to nuclear weapons” that it expressed as a body in the 1980s.

In a letter published May 11, meanwhileBishop of Hildesheim and German Pax Christi president Heiner Wilmer called on the German government to initiate a process within NATO “which seriously seeks alternatives to nuclear deterrence”, rather than trying to go it alone on the matter.

Wilmer was referring to a demand by Rolf Mützenich, Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader in the German Parliament, to withdraw all US nuclear weapons from Germany.

In an interview at the weekend, Mützenich cited as his reason for the demand the new nuclear strategy of US President Donald Trump.

“Trump’s government has announced that nuclear weapons no longer serve only as a deterrent, but are weapons with which wars can be waged”, Mützenich deplored, adding that for Germany and the world, “the risk of escalation has become unmanageable”.

– Full text of the Pax Christi appeal

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.