Today is a day of celebration, at JPIT and for peace campaigners all around the world. The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has reached fifty ratifications and will enter into legal force after a period of ninety days.
Nuclear weapons are by their very nature indiscriminate, and have catastrophic environmental, humanitarian and financial implications. This treaty places them where they belong: alongside other indiscriminate weaponry, such as biological and chemical weapons. It’s been a long time in the making. The TPNW was first adopted by the UN in 2017, but even before that campaigners had been advocating for a ban for decades.
The campaign for the TPNW
The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and its partners were awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for this work at the end of 2017. As part of the Nobel Lecture, Hiroshima survivor and peace campaigner Setsuko Thurlow said:
“Tonight, as we march through the streets of Oslo with torches aflame, let us follow each other out of the dark night of nuclear terror. No matter what obstacles we face, we will keep moving and keep pushing and keep sharing this light with others. This is our passion and commitment for our one precious world to survive.”
For Christians, it’s an important message. As we work to demonstrate the peace of Christ to the world, staying power is really important. This is a treaty that’s been decades in the making, and it’s through the tireless work of peace campaigners that it’s come into force, Setsuko Thurlow’s words bring to mind Matthew 5:16.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The four JPIT church partners have been advocating for this kind of comprehensive ban for several years. At JPIT, we believe that we’re called to be peacemakers and that anything so indiscriminate and immoral as nuclear weapons must be totally incompatible with the teachings of the Bible. So we’re really excited that all the work that’s gone into securing this comprehensive Treaty has finally paid off.
What does the Treaty actually mean?
For the countries who have signed the TPNW, a whole range of nuclear-related activities will now be totally banned. This includes developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.
At the moment, none of the nuclear states have signed the TPNW, so the work isn’t done yet. If they were to sign, they commit to destroying their existing weapons within a legally binding, time-bound plan. Now the TPNW is entering into legal force, there is clearly an international consensus that these weapons are unconscionable and have no place in society.
What can I do about it?
Campaigning for nuclear disarmament can be disheartening work. There often don’t seem to be any tangible lifestyle changes that make a difference, and the big decisions all have to be made at an international or national level. But, in fact, while international treaties are primarily agreements between sovereign states, they can also reflect a sense of public morality and have a bearing on local governments, civil society and the private sector. There are some really important actions which individuals can take to boost the work of international actions like the TPNW.
Write to your bank or pension provider asking them to reconsider their policy on nuclear weapons investment in light of the TPNW. The Joint Public Issues Team has helped to coordinate a partnership to investigate the state of play of nuclear weapons financing in the UK. This has produced a major new report #InvestingInChange. We encourage you to write to your bank or pension provider in light of the report’s findings. Check out how your financial institution fared and get in touch with them if you think their policy isn’t good enough here.
Is your city, town or area a Nuclear Free Local Authority? If not, why not? Get your area involved by lobbying your council to become a Nuclear Free Zone.
Could your area join the Mayors for Peace scheme? This is a scheme that establishes solidarity between communities around the world. Have a look and get in touch with your local authority if you think it might work in your area.
Join the celebration! Let us know how you’re celebrating the TPNW’s entry into legal force by Tweeting us @publicissues and using #TPNW.
This is a time for celebration and a time to look to the future to see how we can continue to strive for a world which actively works for peace. We’re excited to see where this campaign goes next, and looking forward to celebrating with all the supporters of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.