By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The first-ever Treaty on the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into force on 22 January 2021 after years of negotiations. The Treaty, welcomed by many as a step towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons, was signed four years after it was adopted by the UN in 2017.
Hailing this recent development, the All-Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), in a statement on Tuesday, expressed its support, together with the rest of the ecumenical community, for the Treaty which now becomes international law.
The ecumenical body said that the Treaty “ushers in the possibilities of heralding a new world free of the threats and tensions that have been characterized by the battle to develop and hold nuclear weapons.”
No safe hands for nuclear weapons
In the Tuesday statement, AACC stated its belief “that the very holding and potential threat of use of nuclear weapons is immoral,” adding that it looks forward to the day “when the world will be freed of these weapons permanently.”
“There are no safe hands for these weapons,” added AACC. “The accidental or deliberate detonation of a nuclear weapon would cause severe, long-lasting and far-reaching harm on all aspects of our lives and our environment throughout the world.”
At the same time, these technologies are “part of structures and systems that bring about great suffering and destruction” and have been the cause of “major tensions and threats of widespread devastation.”
TPNW: inspiration for a nuclear-weapon-free world
In the wake of the entry into force of the Treaty, AACC said that at a time when the world desperately needs fresh hope, the TPNW inspires us to work towards fully eliminating “the threat of nuclear weapons, and to create conditions for peace, justice and well-being.”
AACC also pointed out that the treaty addresses the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and indigenous peoples, as well as the “importance of victim assistance and healing environmental harms in a groundbreaking way.”
Citing the example of the hibakusha – survivors of the two nuclear attacks launched at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II – AACC noted that their courage and perseverance serve as “the inspiration, guidance and moral foundation” in the quest for a world without nuclear weapons.
Appeal to States
Highlighting that none of the nine nuclear global powers, and many countries with defense pacts with them have signed or ratified the Treaty, AACC pointed out that a lot of work still remains to be done. As at its entry into force, the TPNW was signed by 86 countries and ratified by 51.
In this regard, AACC appealed to the ecumenical global community to make its contribution, in whichever way possible, to participate in the global work for peace, justice and respect for life.
Concretely, the ecumenical body is urging all States to sign and ratify the TPNW, as well as join the first meeting of the State parties scheduled for next year. AACC further calls for decisive action “to strengthen the power of the TPNW upon its entry into force, and to work for peace, cooperation and common security.”
“We must not be discouraged at the slow pace, but become even more determined to push for a better world,” AACC said. “This is part of our mission and we know God is on our side.”
Founded in Kampala, Uganda, in 1963, the AAAC is an ecumenical association that today has 173 member churches present in 40 African countries, representing over 120 million Christians on the continent. Its headquarters is in Nairobi, Kenya.