This last weekend I had the privilege of covering the International Peace and Disarmament Conference in New York City. I wrote about the event in The Stewardship Report. Saturday night I was electrified at Riverside Church by Ban Ki-moon and raced home to file an exclusive copy of his speech for The Huffington Post. Today I would like to share with my readers the most inspirational speech from the Rally on Times Square – only hours after police closed it after a failed bombing.
Over 15,000 peace activists from around the world have descended upon New York City this week to witness the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations. This weekend, events ranged from the plenary sessions on the Upper West Side to the International Peace & Music Festival on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in the shadow of the U.N.
Having grown up in the Episcopal Church, going to a Presbyterian college where I attended a Unitarian fellowship, and from years attended an American Baptist (a la Martin Luther King) church in Manhattan, I have lived with the peace movement all my life. I am also intimately familiar with the National Council of Churches. What I did not know was how inspiring its General Secretary Dr. Michael Kinnamon was – until I heard him speak on Times Square.
Below are Michael’s words, verbatim, spoken to Japanese survivors of our Atomic Bomb – known as the Hibakusha, in addition to thousands of other from Germany, France, Latin America, Africa – the entire world:
Good afternoon lovers of peace! The National Council of Churches in the USA, which I represent, is a community of Christian denominations that range from the Armenian Orthodox to the Society of Friends, from the Episcopal Church to the National Baptist Convention, from the United Methodists to the Korean Presbyterians. To let you in on a secret, churches that diverse don’t agree on all things!
But on this we do agree: Nuclear weapons are a threat to the human future. They siphon off resources that could have been used to promote true security through economic and cultural development. If they ever played a stabilizing role in the balance of power, they surely do so no longer in this post-Cold War world.
And thus, in the words of a resolution passed at our last General Assembly, "the time has arrived to eliminate all of these weapons before they are used to eliminate all of us. Be it therefore resolved that the National Council of Churches hereby recommits itself to the total worldwide eradication of nuclear weapons."
The resolution takes note of the danger posed by nuclear weapons in the hands of countries such as Iran and North Korea, but it also agrees with a Brazilian ambassador who said that a nation "cannot worship at the altar of nuclear weapons and then raise heresy charges against those who want to join the sect" (Sergio Duarte). If the United States wants to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, then it must take bold, credible steps—now!—toward its own nuclear disarmament.
Please hear me. I want to be sure that the press, that all of you, understand that our churches care deeply about the United States and its security. We are American churches. But before that, we are people of faith who know that all life is interrelated, stemming from a single Creator—which means that real security is never achieved through unilateral defense but through attentiveness to the injustice that afflicts other children of God.
Clinics and schools will do more for our security than missiles and bombs. And security is certainly not achieved through nuclear weapons—weapons of such "abundant death"—which, as many have observed, would be suicidal to use against a country that has them, would be immoral to use on a country that doesn’t, and would be of no value to use against terrorists.
Friends, I am glad I can report to you that the National Council of Churches has taken such a stance. But as we all know, nuclear weapons are not a Christian problem—they are a human problem, one that demands a concerted effort from all of us.
The author with activist/singer Stephan Said who is half Iraqi and 100% against nuclear war.
So let our voice be heard from Times Square to the United Nations, from New York City to the Pentagon, from this place around the world: Nuclear weapons are a threat to the human future, a crime against humanity! To the leaders of our nations, we say: "Take steps now to remove them from the face of the earth!"
Michael Kinnamon is an able leader for America’s churches, just as Hiroshima's Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, head of Mayors for Peace is an able leader of cities, and Ban Ki-moon an able leader for the world’s people. Let us hope that this week all able leaders – women and men alike from all nations and races – will be able to agree once and for all on abolishing the scourge of nuclear weaponry.
Photos by Morgan Freeman, The Jim Luce Stewardship Report.