Abolish Nuclear Weapons and War–Choose Peace

by Mairead Maguire

In 2008 I visited the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was amazed at these beautiful cities and in awe of the fact that they had risen out of the ashes of the atomic bombs dropped on them in August 1945. It proved the resilience of the human spirit and that, in spite of such tremendous suffering, the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had rebuilt their lives and not got stuck in their suffering and the past. I was inspired to see that the Japanese people have moved on and transcended their suffering to work in a positive way for a world built on forgiveness, fraternity, and co-existence as the human family.

The Japanese "peace constitution" contains Article 9, which rejects war and nuclear weapons and is highly regarded and admired around the world by many who see it as a model for all governments to include in their constitutions, so we human beings can solve conflict through dialogue and negotiations, basing our security on human rights and international laws, not on militarism and war.

The Japanese people have for the past 65 years sustained their anti-nuclear and anti-war movements and instead of putting their talents and money into militarism, have built a beautiful country whose social and environmental achievements are an example of how to improve the lives of its citizens. When I visited the Japanese cities and saw the beautiful hospitals, schools, railroad systems, I saw that Japan (like Germany) was investing in its people, not in militarism and wars. An U.S. Senator who was also visiting commented to me that he wished his country would invest in its people and not militarism and war, and would focus its great strength and resources in cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution.

Today, the U.S. government and Russia hold over 90% of the world's nuclear arms, yet both have enormous social problems, with many of their people living in appalling poverty. Just a small fraction of the military budgets of these countries would alleviate poverty worldwide but tragically the will to tackle the real enemies of the human family, war, militarism, poverty, global warming, diseases, lack of education, and create human security has yet to be created. This "will" to move from military (in)security to human security can be created by civil society and though this is already happening, we the world's people need to increase our efforts so that a huge civilian superpower around the world can be mobilized to non-violently demand policies of fairness, equality, and disarmament from all our governments.

In April 2009, U.S. President Obama, speaking in Prague, said, "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act" and "take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons."

We all want to see a world without nuclear weapons and the U.S./Russia and all governments who signed the NPT upholding their commitments. Also a nuclear weapons convention would be an important step. There is a need to develop a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East and Israeli could take a lead in this by signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Also Iran should be encouraged to be part of this movement to keep the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction by agreeing to uphold its commitment to the NPT which it has already signed. A disarmed and economically united Middle East (as after the war the EU was established) would give great hope to the world. The UK should uphold its NPT obligations and not renew its Trident nuclear submarines at a cost of £100 Billion for 5 years.

A world without killing, a world without nuclear weapons and war is possible. If we can learn to embrace the diversity and otherness we find here in this world, if we can heal the ancient divisions and misunderstandings of the past, if we can give and accept forgiveness then we will become more truly human and compassionate people – we will become what God has created us to be. We have not been created to kill each other, to build weapons of mass destruction to burn other human beings alive, to build predator drones operated from a computer in Nevada, which drops weapons in the villages of Afghanistan. Nor, I believe, does a loving Creator want us to be suicide bombers and burn, blow up, and destroy other human beings.

God did not create us – beautiful as each one is – to act in such barbaric ways. God created us to love, not only ourselves, but all God's creatures and creation.

For too long we have allowed our humanity to be corrupted by the false mindset that we can kill others and in putting this mindset to the service of governments and militaries, glorifying nationalism and war, we continue to build a world of insanity and madness. But it is not too late to change our mindsets and start living by the code of ethics which says – love one another, do not kill. All Faith traditions share the Ethic: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" and the Faith traditions can play a great role in building a Culture of No killing, by reminding us of the Golden Rule.

On 6th August and 9th August, we can remember and pray for all those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the greatest tribute we can pay to those who died, and to the hibakusha who suffered so much, is to continue working for an end to all violence and armed struggles, and to end the Siege of Gaza, and Palestinian occupied territories, and wars in Afghanistan and so many other countries. Nuclear weapons and wars can be ended when we choose peace and practise love and forgiveness, while all the while disarming our mindsets and building a nonkilling, nonviolent world.

Mairead Maguire is a Northern Irish peace activist. She co-founded, with Betty Williams, The Peace People (www.peacepeople.com), an organization which works for peace and nonviolence in the world. She and Ms. Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.

(Originally published on August 4, 2010) .