By Lisa Zengarini
Bishops in Australia have urged the Government to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which seeks for the first time to establish a comprehensive ban on the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
The Treaty was adopted in 2017 and came into force on 22 January. Until now, it has been ratified by 51 States, including the Holy See.
Australia, however, is amongst the countries which haven’t signed it.
Immoral possession and use
In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Bishop Terry Brady, Delegate for Social Justice in the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), called on the government to do so, explaining that the elimination of nuclear weapons would be a major step towards creating peace in the world.
“Experience has taught us that the threat of mutual destruction – with the possibility of the total destruction of humankind and our common home – cannot provide a foundation for peace and security in the multipolar world of the twenty-first century,” the prelate writes.
He adds that nuclear weapons "are incapable of addressing terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity, ecological problems, or poverty.”
Highlighting that any use of nuclear weapons "is clearly immoral as they are inherently indiscriminate and their impact is uncontainable in time and space,” the letter notes that the continued availability of nuclear weapons “poses an unacceptable risk of deliberate or accidental use, and it diverts resources from the things that positively foster peace.”
Development, not destruction
Recalling Pope Francis’ Message at a UN Conference on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in 2017, the Bishop reiterates that: “International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power” and must be built instead “on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity.”
Bishop Brady remarks that these positive foundations of peace are commitments that successive Australian governments have held, but “the impact of these efforts is however undermined by the continuing existence of nuclear weapons which create fear, undermine relationships of trust, and constrain dialogue.”
He therefore concludes: “It is time for Australia to begin the process of stepping away from all involvement with nuclear weapons by signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”