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UK ‘must join’ disarmament talks at the United Nations in May, says Bishop of Chelmsford

02 March 2018

PA/Stephen Shaver/UPI

Chinese visitors at the Military Museum in Beijing, last month, when it was reported that China had successfully conducted another anti-missile test, amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme

Chinese visitors at the Military Museum in Beijing, last month, when it was reported that Ch...

NUCLEAR weapons are a “lethal extravagance”, and the UK should be present at the United Nations high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament in May, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, has said.

In a House of Lords debate about nuclear weapons on Tuesday of last week, Bishop Cottrell asked: “Will we [the UK Government] be there? And if not, why not?”

He told peers: “The question before us is, I think, a simple one: when a majority of the world’s countries are working within this UN framework to achieve non-proliferation and the ultimate goal of disarmament — multilateral disarmament — why won’t we even engage with the process?

“If we are so convinced that nuclear weapons are so helpful to keeping peace in the world, what have we to fear from discussion with those who think differently?”

He asked why the Government was not planning to send an observer, and suggested that it was because “in our hearts, we know that we can never use these bombs, and therefore to own them and to perpetuate the myth of deterrence is a moral failure.”

Lord Patten, speaking before Bishop Cottrell, referred to St Thomas Aquinas and the just-war principles, and said that nuclear weapons should be “properly considered and undertaken for a good purpose”, and that peace should be aimed for, but that they should not be disposed of yet.

In response, Bishop Cottrell said: “What he said about nuclear weapons could also be said of chemical weapons, yet we have succeeded in ridding the world of those to a certain extent. I am sure that rogue people will always do rogue things, but we have made progress, and similar progress can be made with nuclear weapons.”

In the debate, he called nuclear weapons “weapons of mass deception” that “provide the illusion of security while actually making the world less secure than ever”.

Earler last month, Bishop Cottrell wrote that the C of E should join the international campaign for disarmament, calling its current silence “out of step with other faith groups around the world” (Comment, 9 February).

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