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Bishops urge Government to sign UN anti-nuclear treaty

16 November 2020

PA

Anti-nuclear campaigners and survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki carry a banner in Nagasaki, Japan, last month, hailing the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is due to come into force in January

Anti-nuclear campaigners and survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki carry a banner in Nagasaki, Japan, last month, hailing th...

MORE than 30 Church of England bishops, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, have called on the Government to accept the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which, they say, will “give hope to all people of goodwill who seek a peaceful future”.

In an open letter published on Sunday in The Observer, the signatories supported the ratification of the Treaty, which is due to come into effect on 22 January 2021.

They expressed regret, however, that “the UK, together with other nuclear states, has not yet signed the accord. We call on the UK Government to do so, and thereby to give hope to all people of goodwill who seek a peaceful future.”

The support that the Treaty had already gained was an important step, they wrote.

“For so many of the nations of the world to speak clearly of the need to ban these weapons of mass destruction is an encouraging and hopeful sign. We commit ourselves to pray and to work so that this ratification will indeed help to see an end to nuclear weapons in the future.”

The letter was circulated among all Church of England bishops.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said on his Twitter feed on Sunday: “We must strive to rid the world of these weapons of mass deception. They don’t keep us safe. They cost billions. We need to find our security in other ways.”

On Twitter on Sunday, another signatory, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said that it was “a treaty the UK should sign. And, just in case that’s no longer seen as the same, keep.”

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, also a signatory, called via Twitter on Sunday for people to “work together for the peace of the world”.

The ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was confirmed last month when the required 50 states declared their support for it. Honduras was the 50th state to do so.

Once the Treaty becomes active, states that have signed it will be required to stop producing, developing, testing, or stationing nuclear weapons, or threatening to use them. They will further be required to give assistance to any victims of the testing and use of nuclear weapons. Any financial institutions in a state that has signed up to the Treaty will be expected to stop investing in companies that produce nuclear weapons.

The UK has not signed it; nor have France, the United States, China, and Russia.

Last month, the Quakers in Britain called on the UK not to boycott the Treaty. Their Recording Clerk, Paul Parker, urged the Government to sign it and “dismantle our nuclear arsenal.”

On Sunday, the Roman Catholic organisation Pax Christi welcomed the letter from the bishops. The director of Pax Christi for England and Wales, Theresa Alessandro, said: “We are encouraged by the moral leadership of a large number of Church of England bishops who have called on our government to sign the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.”

Besides the two Archbishops, and the Bishops of Manchester and St Albans, the letter was signed by the Bishops of Liverpool, Coventry, Bedford, Dorking, Willesden, Shrewsbury, Croydon, Grimsby, Loughborough, Ebbsfleet, Dudley, Reading, Wolverhampton, Stepney, Barking, Aston, Worcester, Colchester, Burnley, Bradwell, Swindon, Wakefield, Selby, Kensington, Gloucester, and Sheffield, and by the Suffragan Bishop in Europe.

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