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From the Report of the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches

3.5 Confronting threats to peace and survival

Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios (Orthodox Syrian Church of the East, India) presented the report as Moderator of the Issue Group. He indicated that a section on theology and the foundations of peace had been dropped for reasons of space; even so the document exceeded the prescribed length.
Bishop John Habgood (Church of England), a Vice-Moderator, stressed the inter-relatedness of the many topics touched upon the report. Technological society tends to fragment such topics and deal with each in isolation, but the Church must attempt to see the picture whole. It is not enough to denounce, he said: the churches must do some hard thinking if they are to influence decisions that will shape the future.
Rev. Dr Josef Smolik (Czech Brethren) underlined the need to build confidence and counter propaganda that fosters distrust and fear. Several speakers, including the General Secretary, regretted the deletion of the theological introduction, and Dr. John Howard Yoder (Mennonite, USA) encouraged the WCC to pursue theological study of the ethics of war and peace. The churches should be asked to provide pastoral and practical support for Christians engaged in non-violent civil disobedience opposing militarism, argued Rev. Hamish Christie-Johnston (Uniting Church in Australia), and Bishop Karoly Toth (Reformed, Hungary) wanted an unequivocal statement that the avoidance of nuclear war is today's most urgent moral imperative. Bishop Victor Premasagar, of the Church of South India, felt the document depicted technology too much in negative terms, ignoring, what the third world saw as its promise. Dr Aaron Tolen (Presbyterian, Cameroun) registered reservations about the term „appropriate technology": it is appropriate only when controlled by the country concerned, not when it increases dependency.
The Issue Group's Moderator responded positively to most of the concerns that had been raised. He explained, however, that there had been several strains of theological thinking in the Group. „We have not yet come to an ecumenical consensus on peace theology which can be stated in two pararaphs!" he said.
The substance of the report was approved and commended to the churches for study and appropriate action.

Part A: justice, peace and militarism

1. Christ, the life of the world, is our peace (Eph. 2:14). Our hopes for a world where life is not threatened by nuclear holocaust, or slow starvation, for a world where Justice and peace embrace each other, are based in Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One who has triumphed over the powers of evil and death, and therefore will not allow the ultimate triumph of injustice and war. True peace comes only from God, who can turn even the wrath of man to God's praise (Ps. 76:10). True peace is more than the absence of restored relationships of love, compassion and justice.

2. The Spirit of God works through people and nations, as they become open to God's guidance, and seek peace. Christians themselves are often guilty of hating the "enemy", of seeking vengeance, and of causing division and discord. But as we witness to our genuine desire for peace with specific actions, the Spirit of God can use our feeble efforts for bringing the kingdoms of this world closer to the kingdom of God.

3. We recognize that an unjust peace can be unbearable. Many of us have only recently been liberated from the unjust peace of colonialism. Others are in the thick of the struggle for emancipation from an injustice which precludes peace, from systems buttressed by brute force, by torture and murder and even by attempts at genocide. A peace based on racism, sexism, domination, greed and militarism cannot be what Christians seek.

Common security

4. Human beings have a right to live in security. This implies economic and social justice for all, protection and defence of life within a political framework designed to ensure this. It is legitimate for each nation to seek its own security and protection from outside attack, without endangering the security of other nations.

5. Current concepts of national security are to be challenged where they conflict with the demands of justice, exceed the needs to legitimate defence, or seek economic, political and military domination of others. Prevailing doctrines of national security lead to the preparation for war becoming an almost permanent way of life for nations and societies. Military conditioning of the population, including children, distorts priorities in political, social and cultural planning, and often seeks to legitimize the systematic violation of human rights in the name of national security.

6. This applies on the international plane also. So long as economic injustice prevails between nations, lasting international security cannot be achieved, either by collective defence systems or by negotiated weapons reduction alone. Only a common enterprise undertaken by all the nations of the world together can ensure dependable international security.

7. No nation can achieve security at the expense of others, through seeking military superiority or interfering in the life of other nations. Deterrence or peace by terror should give place to the concept of common security for all, which includes people's security in each nation.

8. Common security implies:

  1. respect for the legitimate rights of all nations and peoples;
  2. promoting mutual understanding and appreciation among cultures, religions and ideologies, through open communication, rejecting propaganda of mistrust and fear, and promoting confidence-building measures;
  3. broad international cooperation in science and technology, economy and. culture;
  4. conversion of all economics from military to civilian production;
  5. using and strengthening the United Nations Organization and other international institutions with similar objectives;
  6. f) promoting adequate international legislation and providing means for adjudication of international disputes and for implementation of decisions;
  7. g) making the machinery for peaceful settlement of international conflicts more effective.

Militarism in relation to economic injustice

9. We believe that the present military build-up and arms race are integrally related to the practices of an unjust world economic order. The worldwide trend towards militarization is not a mere confrontation and tension between the major powers, but also an expression of the desire to repress those emerging forces which seek a more just world order. It is this latter which poses a fundamental threat to peace. Whereas people's aspirations for and expectations of a more just order have been supported as legitimate, the big will use military might to buttress the unjust order in order to protect their own interests. The defence of these interests can often be disguised as appeals for national security, the upholding of law and order, the defence of democracy, the protection of the "free world", the need to maintain spheres of influence and sometimes even the cause of peace.

10. Among the factors promoting militarism one can identify: technological advances enhancing the effectiveness and power of military and police forces; growing integration of military and civilian sectors; a conscious promotion of psychological insecurity to justify the further acquisition of arms; a growing worldwide military trade network; alarming increase in the number of foreign military bases; unhealthy competition between the USA and the USSR to achieve military and technological superiority; creation and maintenance of spheres of influence by major developed nations and some of the two-thirds world nations; the egomania and prestige-seeking of certain political leaders; religious fanaticism.

11. The arms trade is a new form of intervention, maintaining and developing dominance-dependence relationships, and encouraging repression and violation of human rights. Militarism leads to massive allocation of human and material resources to research and production in the military sector in all countries, at the cost of lowering the priority of meeting the needs of human development. The process seems already out of political control.

12. As the opposition to nuclear weapons grows, new non-nuclear or so-called conventional weapons of mass destruction develop at frightening speed, evading public attention. The churches should do more research about these, and help the public to assess these developments and to oppose them where necessary.

Nuclear arms, doctrines and disarmament

13. It would be an intolerably evil contradiction of the Sixth Assembly's theme, 'Jesus Christ - the Life of the World", to support the nuclear weapons and doctrines which threaten the survival of the world. We now affirm, as a declaration of this Assembly, the conviction expressed by the 1981 Amsterdam Public Hearing on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament and commended to WCC member churches by the Central Committee in 1982:
We believe that the time has come when the churches must unequivocally declare that the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned on ethical and theological grounds.
Furthermore, we appeal for the institution of a universal covenant to this effect so that nuclear weapons and warfare are delegitimized and condemned as violations of international law.

14. Nuclear deterrence, as the strategic doctrine which has justified nuclear weapons in the name of security and war prevention, must now be categorically rejected as contrary to our faith in Jesus Christ who is our life and peace. Nuclear deterrence is morally unacceptable because it relies on the credibility of the intention to use nuclear weapons: we believe that any intention to use weapons of mass destruction is an utterly inhuman violation of the mind and spirit of Christ which should be in us. We know that many Christians and others sincerely believe that deterrence provides an interim assurance of peace and stability on the way to disarmament. We must work together with those advocates of interim deterrence who are earnestly committed to arms reduction. But the increasing probabilities of nuclear war and the spectre of an arms race totally out of control have exposed the cruel illusions of such faith in deterrence.

15. Nuclear deterrence can never provide the foundation of genuine peace. It is the antithesis of an ultimate faith in that love which casts out fear. It escalates the arms race in a vain pursuit of stability. It ignores the economic, social and psychological dimensions of security, and frustrates justice by maintaining the status quo in world politics. It destroys the reality of self-determination for most nations in matters of their own safety and survival, and diverts resources from basic human needs. It is the contradiction of disarmament because it exalts the threat of force, rationalizes the development of new weapons of mass destruction, and acts as a spur to nuclear proliferation by persistently breaking the „good faith" pledge of disarmament in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus tempting other governments to become nuclear-weapon states. It is increasingly discredited by first-strike and war-fighting strategies which betray the doubts about its reliability.

16. We urge our member communions to educate their members in the urgency of delegitimizing nuclear weapons and demythologizing deterrence.

17. In the meantime we affirm our support for the following specific measures:

  1. a mutual and verifiable freeze on the development, testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles;
  2. completion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
  3. early and successful completion of the Geneva negotiations between the US and USSR for substantial reductions in strategic nuclear weapons;
  4. non-deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles, major reductions of Soviet intermediate range missiles including SS-20s, and successful conclusion of intermediate nuclear forces (INF) negotiations in Geneva;
  5. creation of nuclear-free zones wherever possible;
  6. cessation of all nuclear weapons and missile tests in the Pacific and a programme of medical and environmental aid to promote the health of Pacific peoples affected by nuclear activities;
  7. the negotiation of a treaty providing for the total demilitarization of space, including the banning of all nuclear, anti-satellite and anti-missile systems in space;
  8. commitment by all nuclear-weapon states to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons;
  9. independent, non-negotiated initiatives such as a moratorium on the testing or development of nuclear weapons, renunciation of a specific weapon system, cessation of production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes, or reductions in existing arsenals or projected military expenditures.

Proposals to the member churches

18. We therefore propose to the churches that they:

  • undertake and support educational programmes on peace with justice as an integrated part of a UN-related World Disarmament Campaign and especially address themselves to all people working in production and research for military applications;
  • set up and support study centres with the special aim of defining positive alternatives to militarism and to military defence;
  • strongly support continued and intensified programmes for peace and conflict research and make widely available the statistical and factual data about expenditure on militarization and development;
  • establish links with movements working to resist militarism and its social, cultural and economic effects;
  • develop ecumenical theological reflection on circumstances justifying civil disobedience for Christians, and explore possible non-violent ways of protest action;
  • support pastorally and practically those who oppose militarism and take a conscientious stand on refusal to participate in war or in preparations for war, including the manufacture of nuclear warheads and delivery systems;
  • support efforts for a just World Economic Order as a basis for global security.


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