A Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Shame
ugust 2020 marked 75 years since nuclear bombs were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombs, eerily codenamed Little Boy and Fat Man devastated these cities, seared thousands of people to death and caused life-long radiation damage. The bombing was called ‘a rain of ruin from the air’ by the United States President, Harry Truman.
Several countries continue to maintain, develop and enhance their nuclear capability. The United States alone spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. Pope John XXIII called for the disarmament of nuclear weapons in his 1963 Pacem in Terris encyclical. Pope Francis firmly condemned the possession of Nuclear Weapons during a special Vatican conference on Nuclear Disarmament in 2017, saying that they delayed and prevented peace on earth.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how our health, environment and economics have suffered. The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki give us a glimpse of the horror and consequences of the use of these weapons of mass destruction. Unlike the pandemic, we know what we have to do to prevent a nuclear attack. We are dilatory on this perilous issue.
The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by the United Nations. 193 countries are members of the United Nations. 38 countries have signed and ratified the Treaty. Ireland joined the UN in 1958 and signed this Treaty in 2017, but has said that it will ratify it sometime in the future. This is unnecessary procrastination. Ratifying this Treaty is Ireland’s call to stand tall with honour and continue its unique contribution to world peace.
It requires that fifty countries ratify the treaty to have a normative standard of International Law against the possession and the development of nuclear weapons. Maybe Ireland’s new role on the United Nations Security Council will be a voice of influence on the necessity for nuclear disarmament in the world. Banks and financial institutions also need to divest from supporting the huge network of companies that produce or maintain nuclear weapons. Churches and all faith groups have a pivotal role here as instruments of peace. ‘Whoever has ears to hear – let them listen’ (Mt 11:15). We have failed this hearing test so many times …
Pope Francis visited Japan in 2019. He met two survivors of the Hiroshima nuclear attack at the Peace Memorial Park. The eloquent silence of his encounter with Yoshiko Kasimoto and Kojí Hosokawo was profound. Pope Francis spoke a prophetic message to an apparent deaf world: ‘The use of atomic energy for the purposes of war is a crime not only against the dignity of human beings, but against any possible future for our common home.’
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