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Friday December 15 2017

Looking Back: Call for Trial Stoppage of Nuclear Weapons

In a week in which Church of Scotland campaigners celebrated the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, a call from the Churches in 1957.

Trial Stoppage of Nuclear Weapons


THE leaders and representatives of the Churches who gathered in Leeds on 22nd-23rd October for the meetings of the British Council of Churches had before them two important statements on nuclear weapons.

One came from the July meeting of the Executive Committee of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, operating for the World Council of Churches, which in a weighty statement pleaded for general consideration of the following actions:-

(a) Stop tests by genuine and verifiable international agreement; and, an even more fundamental necessity;
(b) stop the production of nuclear weapons, under effective control, and link this with general reduction of nuclear and conventional armaments;
(c) accelerate international co-operation in “atoms for peace,” with proper safeguards against fall-out, etc.; and
(d) establish more effective methods of settling international disputes by peaceful methods.

These, said the statement, are profoundly inter-related. They cannot be properly applied without a growth in international confidence. They should be applied together; but, as this is extremely difficult, a start should be made, even by choosing one or two. To do nothing is cumulatively disastrous.

However intractable the problems, Christians, with their faith and hope, must press persistently for such solutions, and they “can urge their governments to declare their resolve to forego tests for a trial period, in the hope that others will do the same, a new confidence be born, and foundations laid for reliable agreements.”

The other came from the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. It commended this statement to the member Churches, which include the Church of Scotland, repeating the Evanston appeal for the prohibition of all weapons of mass destruction, with provision for international inspection and control.

They continued: “We urge that as a first step governments conducting tests should forego them, at least for a trial period, either together or individually, in the hope that others will do the same, a new confidence by born, and foundations be laid for reliable agreements.”

By a very large majority the British Council of Churches decided to welcome these statements. Impressed by the consensus of ecumenical opinion shown, it instructed its officers to see that these documents reach those in authority in H.M. Government. It invited its International Department to set up a group of some of its members and some Defence experts, to keep the situation under continuous study and advise the Council.

J. B. L.

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