The UK is one of just nine countries who maintain a nuclear arsenal worldwide, and there are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons stored worldwide. Needless to say, the use of these weapons would be catastrophic. Sustaining the threat of indiscriminate destruction is totally contrary to the peace to which Christ calls us.
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
In 2017 the vast majority of the world’s nations have made known their abhorrence of nuclear weapons by working together to agree a nuclear ban treaty, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). On 24th October 2020, the Treaty reached fifty ratifications, and on 22nd January 2021, it passed into legal force.
This means that nuclear weapons are now banned under international law. Signatories are prohibited from any activities involving nuclear weapons.
Thanks to decades of campaigning and the will of states and campaigners to reach an agreement on nuclear weapons, the TPNW has finally come into effect. However, the work here isn’t yet done: it is proving difficult to persuade states that possess nuclear weapons to engage with this treaty and its proponents constructively. Yet international treaties have prohibited chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions. It would make sense that nuclear weapons, with their even greater destructive capacity, are subjected to the same legal prohibition and to a compulsory regime of verification and control.
We’ve put together a briefing on the TPNW which has been updated in January 2021 to reflect the Treaty passing into legal force.
We took part in this interfaith statement to celebrate the arrival of the #TPNW on 22nd January 2021. Watch it here:
Trident missiles are at the core of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, comprising the four submarines, nuclear warheads, missiles leased from the US, fissile material stockpile maintenance and a hugely expensive nuclear weapons enterprise programme.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the URC and the Church of Scotland have all been outspoken in their opposition of Trident, especially in 2016, when MPs voted to replace and renew Trident. Given that the UK has committed to pursuing disarmament as part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, renewal of Trident is incompatible with the UK’s desire to encourage global nuclear disarmament.
At the heart of the Christian faith is the incarnation of Christ through whom we can see God at work in our world. To a vast majority of our Church members it would seem implausible that nuclear weapons could ever be used in the context of a ‘just war’.
From a perspective of Christian ethics, influencing one’s adversary through the threat of nuclear weapons is problematic. Deterrence relies on convincing an adversary that there are circumstances in which the UK is capable of using such weapons. A threat of violence is not a non-violent act.
In both 2006 and 2016, our partner Churches all condemned the renewal of Trident.
Banks, Pensions, and Nuclear Weapons
The Nuclear Weapons Financing Research Group have published a comprehensive study into the policies, practices and investments of some of the biggest financial institutions in the UK today. Between them they are responsible for billions of pounds of our money, some of which is invested in nuclear weapons production.
We encourage Christians to read the report and respond by writing to their bank or pension provider to call on them to reconsider their investments in nuclear weaponry.