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The need to eliminate nuclear weapons
is as urgent as ever, Kinnamon says

New York, June 4, 2009 The general secretary of the National Council of Churches today affirmed President Obama's promise in Cairo "to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons."

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon also welcomed the President's call "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." (See accompanying story.)

Noting that neither the NCC nor the World Council of Churches has issued a major statement on nuclear weapons in more than two decades, Kinnamon said he was renewing his personal commitment to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons, "and I pledge to raise this call, with urgency, within the NCC community."

The NCC's last resolution on nuclear weapons, passed by the Governing Board in November 1977 during the Carter Administration, called for a halt in the production of nuclear weapons "toward the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the arsenals of all nations which have them or could produce them." The resolution also called upon the U.S. to halt production of fissionable material for weapons.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s shifted interest away from these concerns and few recent ecumenical statements have mentioned nuclear weapons at all. But Iran's program to develop nuclear-powered energy, and North Korea's test of a nuclear bomb, have raised new concerns.

"President Obama today addressed the specter of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and called it 'a hugely dangerous path," Kinnamon said. "But we also know that the problems are much deeper than that. At least nine nations have nuclear arsenals: the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and -- though it has not been officially acknowledged -- Israel."

In addition, there are widespread fears that fissionable material or weapons formerly under control of Soviet satellite states are not adequately secured, and may be attainable by terrorist organizations, Kinnamon said.

He noted that a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) to recognize the need to address the threat of international terrorism and protect the global security of the U.S. by reducing the number and accessibility of nuclear weapons and preventing their proliferation.

The bill, H.R. 278, called the "Global Security Priorities Resolution," would direct a portion of the resulting savings to child survival, hunger and universal education. It calls on the President to move toward these goals.

"The bill is certainly a step in the right direction," Kinnamon said, "and it prompts us to reevaluate our standards of national safety. The old arguments that nuclear weapons are necessary for national security ring hollow," he said.

"Both political parties tend to think of security in terms of unilateral defense," Kinnamon said,. "But people of faith begin with the truth of human inter-dependence -- which teaches us that security is never won through weapons and walls but through attentiveness to the injustice that affects other children of God."

Assuring justice, he said, is the way to assure  the security of nations. "So long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, no one's safety can ever be assured."

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,

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