Faith Community Organizations Support Nuclear Disarmament

November 6, 2009

Four national, regional and global ecumenical organizations wrote to the leaders of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supporting efforts toward nuclear disarmament. The faith leaders stated, "[n]ow is the time to continue the trend" toward nuclear disarmament and "[t]he present opportunity must be transformed into conclusive actions."

The October 28 letter was sent to U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, "as leaders of the states with more than 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons," as well as to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is the President of the European Union, and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana. It was signed by the general secretaries of the World Council of Churches, Samuel Kobia; the Conference of European Churches, Colin Williams; the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Michael Kinnamon; and the Canadian Council of Churches, Karen Hamilton. The faith community leaders appealed "to all nuclear-weapon states and states with nuclear weapons on their soil to contribute to progress under the new political dynamic."

Jointly representing nearly 200 churches in Europe and North America, the faith leaders acknowledged the work around the world for nuclear disarmament. They said, "[t]he new striving to abolish nuclear weapons" is a sign able to "raise hope in the world." They directed attention to the upcoming opportunities to address nuclear disarmament, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations in May 2010, the development of NATO's new Strategic Concept, and the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) follow-on agreement between the U.S. and Russia.

The START Treaty expires on December 5, 2009. An adviser to Russian President Medvedev said recently that it appears that Russia and the U.S. may sign a follow-up agreement to the START before the treaty lapses. The parties hope to reach an agreement before December 10 when President Obama is scheduled to accept the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

In July, Medvedev and Obama each agreed to cut the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads under the new agreement, down from the 2,200-warhead limit they are required to meet by 2012. The leaders also pledged to restrict strategic delivery vehicles on each side to between 500 and 1,100.

Kremlin adviser Arkady Dvorkovich said, "We are still optimistic about ... signing a new agreement this year which will imply huge progress for the world in this matter. We have a very good and constructive dialogue right now on this matter. I think the obstacles are mostly technical and we can complete [them] in time."

Representatives from both sides plan to begin their next round of treaty negotiations on November 9.

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