By Devin Watkins
Integral security must be anchored to “solidarity, justice, integral human development, the respect for fundamental human rights, and the care for creation.”
This call—launched by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin—could sum up the speeches and reflections offered by participants in a webinar held on Tuesday.
Entitled “Advancing integral disarmament in times of pandemic,” the online event advanced the goal of implementing a global ceasefire. It was organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD) and the Vatican Covid-19 Commission, in collaboration with the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP) of the SOAS University of London.
The initiative was divided into three panels, and saw the participation of high-level Vatican officials and leaders of international organizations.
Confronting global crises
Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the DPIHD, kicked off the event with a call for national leaders to redirect resources toward global problems facing humanity, such as hunger and the loss of livelihoods due to the pandemic.
He said the health and economic crises require a concerted effort by governments, which should take the opportunity to move toward disarmament to free up funds for economic recovery.
Security and solidarity
The keynote address of the first panel was delivered by Cardinal Parolin. The Vatican Secretary of State focused his remarks on the concept of “integral security,” and asked participants to consider what kind of security the world desires and how best to ensure it. He said the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the interconnectedness of all humanity.
As Pope Francis called for at the Plain of Ur in Iraq, the world must pursue an integral security that goes beyond the arms race, the idolatry of money, and consumerism. “It means transforming instruments of hatred into instruments of peace,” said Cardinal Parolin. “It means rejecting the increasing proliferation of arms and accepting the promotion of the common good and the alleviation of poverty.”
Rather than spending money on arms, he said, nations should reallocate those expenditures to investing in “health, social equity, and poverty eradication,” which are better suited for promoting security.
Reiterating the Pope’s appeal for a global ceasefire, Cardinal Parolin said the right to self-defense should be considered as an element of “collective-defense” and “integral security.”
“This means also anchoring security to solidarity, justice, integral human development, the respect for fundamental human rights, and the care for creation,” he noted.
The Cardinal Secretary of State then recalled the Pope’s oft-repeated saying that “we never emerge from a crisis the same as before.” And he urged nations to pursue the path of disarmament by turning competition into cooperation and respecting the priority of personal dignity and promoting human life.
The webinar’s first panel also included an address from Professor Dan Plesch, with the SOAS University of London. He pointed out that redirecting just half of the US$2 trillion the world spends on military expenditure would allow governments to reduce taxes, fund global healthcare, and help reduce carbon emissions. It would also, he noted, get rid of “so many causes of war.”
Development over destruction
The second part of the webinar focused on the role of international law in pursuing integral security.
Panelists included Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Vatican’s representative at the UN in Geneva, and representatives of international organizations.
The Archbishop thanked the Dicastery for organizing the event in its Rome headquarters, and noted that the true goal of nuclear disarmament is to “promote integral human development.”
Archbishop Jurkovič added that the Holy See is worried about new arms which engage in “automated killing.” And he expressed the Vatican’s opposition to weapons systems that remove human beings from the decision-making process in war.
More weapons, less healthcare
Several panelists of the second session promoted a concrete proposal called “SCRAP.” The proposal offers a draft text which nations could take as a starting point for negotiations toward a legally-binding agreement for complete disarmament.
Dr. Olamide Samuel, a professor at SOAS, told participants that his team has employed statistical models to uncover a worrying inverse relationship. He said that when governments spend more taxpayer funds on nuclear weapons they also tend to spend less on healthcare and social programs. As Dr. Samuel noted, “We cannot silence the guns while remaining silent about the guns.”
Another panelist, Susi Snyder, focused on the impact of ethical investing on arms production. She said pressure from institutional and activist investors has forced several corporations to abandon their weapon-producing operations. “Together, we can build and sustain the norms that make weapons illegitimate and unacceptable, to eradicate them for good, and to focus on rebuilding from this pandemic to a world with less weapon profiteering,” Ms. Snyder said.
Uniting Christians in a common goal
The third and final session discussed the vital role of religious organizations in promoting disarmament and integral development. The Vatican’s top officials for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue offered their thoughts on the topic.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said ecumenical efforts toward disarmament can help unite Christians in pursuing a common goal.
“Our work for the unity of Christians,” said Cardinal Koch, “is not only for the healing of the Church but also promotes the healing of the world.”
And as Christians work together for the cause of promoting peace, he concluded, “Christian unity is also advanced.”
Listening to cry of the suffering
Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, noted that dialogue between religions is essential to disarmament efforts, because “religion touches the heart of humanity.” He added that just structures can only be created when we engage in dialogue and “lay down arms” in our relationships with others.
“As we continue with this important work of proposing strategies to promote disarmament,” concluded Cardinal Ayuso, “may we keep in mind the cries of those children, women, and men affected by wars of all types.”
Peace among peoples
Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, Special Delegate to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, described the work of the Order in promoting peace.
By offering its services to all without discrimination, the Order of Malta helps peoples of various religions to live in peace.
So, Cardinal Tomasi said, solutions to global problems such as war and conflict need to be sought concretely on the ground in dialogue between peoples and communities.