Wen-Chin (Lucy) Lo, CCAO Peace and Conflict Transformation Intern
Pope Francis finally made his way to the US last month. While his deeds of random kindness were captured by cameras and journalists, his remarks were also in full media spotlight. One of the things the Pope called for when he addressed the U.S. Congress is a renewal of the spirit of politics. He reminded us that political consensus and legislation, “should be based on care for the people.”
An example of where politics struggles to be based on the common good is in policies surrounding nuclear weapons. “An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction…are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations,” the pope said in his speech to the United Nations. “There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit.”
The statement “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition” by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See invites us to reflect on the ethical framework regarding the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear deterrence provides only “a peace of a sort” in that it still allows for the possibility of a nuclear war. Nuclear deterrence is also not conducive to eliminating conventional wars. As long as conflicts and the root causes of disputes persist, the use of conventional weapons will continue. We need a more transformative way of thinking about resolving conflicts rather than trying to fight violence with violence.
Even so, I struggle to connect completely with the cause of nuclear disarmament. The historical memory of the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army to the Chinese people during the Second Sino-Japanese War of World War II haunt me. I have witnessed the pictures of Nanjing Massacre and visited the former site on which Japanese “Unit 731” conducted human experiments for weapons testing in northeastern China. All these terrifying stories of inhumane treatment left me speechless.
But can I cast aside the moral implications of nuclear weapons? As the Pope reminded us during his address to the U.S. Congress, the Golden Rule tells us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This should be kept in mind when it comes to the goal of nuclear nonproliferation. While we ask for states without nuclear weapons not to possess or create new nuclear weapons, we should also demand with equal attention that nuclear-armed states make efforts towards nuclear disarmament.
Copyright © 2019 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.