A child's gas mask lies in a former kindergarten classroom near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine A child's gas mask lies in a former kindergarten classroom near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine 

Holy See: No place for nuclear weapons in collective security

The Pontifical Academy for Sciences issues a declaration calling for an end to the war in Ukraine and urging nations to avoid the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

By Devin Watkins

Participants in a conference on the risk of nuclear war have signed a statement appealing for nations to avoid recourse to nuclear weapons and to respect the territorial integrity and political independence of other States.

The declaration was released on Friday as part of an international conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences (PAS) on the risk of nuclear war.

“Humankind is again confronted with a grave threat, arising from armed conflicts and the acute war that Russia has inflicted on Ukraine. The possibility of nuclear war has been raised by the aggressors.”

Excessive mistrust among nations

The statement’s signatories make known their opposition to the “terrible, inhuman, sacrilegious, and senseless war” in Ukraine, quoting the words of Pope Francis.

They warn especially against the various ways in which nuclear technology could cause mass devastation, including destructions of nuclear power plants, leakage of nuclear waste, the threat posed by nuclear posturing, and the use of nuclear weapons, even of so-called tactical ones.

The members of the PAS lament the rise in “mistrust and suspicion between nations” and call for more serious dialogue between the East and West.

“Serious inequities among nations and within nations, shortsighted national or partisan ambitions, and lust for power are the seeds of conflict which may lead to general and nuclear warfare.”

Scientific duty to improve life

The statement also warns against the use of chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, as well as the misuse of robotics and artificial intelligence on the battlefield.

Scientists, add the signatories, must be used to help humanity “towards a life of flourishing, fulfilment, and peace,” rather than push it down the path of destructive war.

“It is the duty of scientists to speak out and help prevent the perversion of their achievements and to stress that the future of humankind depends on the acceptance by all nations of moral principles transcending all other considerations,” the statement reads.

Collective security without nuclear weapons

The Holy See statement then calls on world leaders to uphold their “grave responsibility” to avoid nuclear war and even the use of “excessive conventional forces.”

In nine points, the scientists urge all nations to refrain from threatening the territorial integrity and political independence of other nations; to avoid using force to settle conflicts; to offer shelter for refugees fleeing war; to cease the proliferation of nuclear weapons; to never preemptively use nuclear weapons and deescalate the arms race; to keep peaceful uses of nuclear energy from being used to build weapons; to do everything possible to reduce the possibility of nuclear war; and, to observe existing arms limitation agreements.

“Our goal must be to build a collective security system where nuclear weapons have no place.”

Duty of all to seek peace

Finally, the PAS members appeal to the international community to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine.

Scientists, they urge, should do their part by employing their creativity to better human life, not worsen it.

Religious leaders, the statement adds, must continue to “proclaim forcefully and persistently the grave human issues at stake, so that these are fully understood and appreciated by society.”

And everyone, concludes the PAS statement, is called to reaffirm our faith in the “destiny of humankind,” while insisting that the duty to avoid war is a common responsibility.

09 April 2022, 16:14