by Rosalie Riegle
The Pax Christi USA website first alerted me to the Back From the Brink Anti-Nuclear campaign. “We can do this!” I thought, so I proposed it to my St. Nicholas Parish Peace and Justice Committee and we all agreed: Evanston, Illinois should become the first Midwest city to ask the Federal Government to agree to the five important points of the campaign: renouncing the first-strike option, ending the sole, unchecked authority of any US president to launch a nuclear attack, taking US weapons off hair-trigger alert, cancelling the plan to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons, and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
Five hundred or so emails, meetings, and phone calls later, we did it! Enlisting collaborators wasn’t hard, but it took time. Chicago Area Peace Action stepped up right away and sponsored an information session at our local library, where we showed the film, The Beginning of the End of Nuclear War. Soon all the Catholic parishes in Evanston joined our coalition as well as several other churches and synagogues. David Combs of Union of Concerned Scientists and members of Pax Christi Illinois and Physicians for Social Responsibility helped to get all our Council members on board. Eleanor Revelle, the Alderperson who agreed to propose it had to first send it through the Human Services Committee. so we enlisted Evanston residents to speak to the motion in committee, including Fr. Robert Oldershaw, Pastor Emeritus of St. Nicholas and Pastor Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church.
As a member of Mayors for Peace, Mayor Haggerty wholeheartedly supported the resolution, but after it unanimously passed out of Human Services, we hit a snag. Two of the Council members thought it wasn’t appropriate for a local governing body to act on an issue when it had no control of the outcome and they planned to vote no. Thankfully, several last-minute personal phone calls convinced them that prevention was the only possible response to a nuclear catastrophe and they withdrew their objection.
At the January, 2020 Council meeting, Robyn Gabel, the Evanston representative to the Illinois State Assembly, paid a surprise visit during the citizen comment period. A lively comment period concluded with one of our peace workers singing an original song which brought loud applause. The resolution passed unanimously and was sent to our US Senators and Representatives.
Robyn Gabel has now introduced a similar resolution to the Illinois Assembly as HR 676 and it is gaining co-sponsors as it wends its way through Assembly committee-land. Hardest of all, we’re now tackling the Chicago City Council. Next fall the Archbishop of Nagasaki will be visiting Chicagoland, and we’re hoping he can convince the Chicago Archdiocese to come out strongly in favor of the City Council passing the resolution. So thank you, Pax Christi USA, for endorsing the Back from the Brink Resolution!