by Madeline Labriola
Pax Christi USA National Council Vice-Chair
We have some good news to celebrate! On January 22, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force. Although the United States and the eight other nuclear countries have not signed on to this treaty, it has been ratified by 51 countries needed for enforcement. The treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed in their territories.
Pax Christi Rhode Island (PCRI) reaffirmed its commitment to two main priorities for 2021, antiracism and nuclear disarmament. On the nuclear disarmament issue several members have been actively involved in raising consciousness and lobbying RI senators on this issue. Before COVID some members were meeting with local city officials as part of the “Back from the Brink” campaign and were successful in getting the East Providence City Council to adopt the “Back from the Brink” resolution on October 19, 2019.
PCRI member Patricia J. Fontes challenged Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in a Democratic
primary two years ago and ran on a platform of peace and social justice. She, along with other
members of RI peace groups, met with Senator Jack Reed. She approached the issue of
nuclear disarmament by encouraging him to promote the most recent International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) effort and to begin work on the conversion of arms manufacturing to peaceful and constructive production. She urged him to initiate or support legislation requiring that arms manufacturing industries begin to diversify their output, investing at least the equivalent of what they receive in local tax exemption to non-military production.
Since 2016 PCRI has written letters to the editor and op-eds in the Rhode Island Catholic and
other local media, participated in vigils and rallies and organized education events. Chief
among the latter was an evening in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists
entitled “A New Global Nuclear Arms Race: Risks, Prevention and Moral Imperatives.” Although all members of the RI Congressional delegation were invited to come, none were in attendance on Sept. 21, 2016. However Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence did attend and spoke clearly about the danger and immorality of having these weapons.
For several years on August 6th a small group has held a banner drop over Interstate 95 in
Providence with the message “No More Hiroshimas”. On August 9, 2020, the 75th Anniversary
of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, PCRI held a zoom “Prayer Service for Remembrance and Repentance” with history, prayers, scripture readings, poetry, testimonies, live music and silence to mourn the victims. Recently the nuclear disarmament committee sponsored a prayer vigil at the site of General Dynamics/Electric Boat in Quonset, RI where 8 members met to pray the rosary on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Led by Fr. Ray Tetrault, these vigils will continue and will be another reminder of our desire to end nuclear weapons production in our state.
Bill Waters, along with newest member, William Smith, have led an effort to educate the public
on the continued dangers of nuclear weapons in our midst. Carrying a large banner that
announced “U.S. Senators Please Ratify UN Treaty for a Global Ban on Nuclear Weapons”,
they have stood in front of the Federal Building in Providence and were at Senator Jack
Reed’s office on January 22 and will be at Senator Whitehouse’s office in February.
In collaboration with other peace groups we are planning to place bus placards on the local city buses in Providence that expose the real and present dangers of weapons of mass destruction and urge citizens to visit the ICAN website for more information. Pax Christ USA is joining Pax Christi RI, East Bay Citizens for Peace, RI Antiwar Committee and Providence Friends Quaker Meeting in sponsoring these ads. We have set up a “Go Fund Me” account to raise the $10,000 we need to get these on the buses for at least 2 months. If you can contribute something to our effort please use this link to donate. Any amount would be gratefully appreciated. If you would like more information about how to set up a similar campaign in your community, please contact Bill Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pax Christi RI is determined to bring the facts to the people of our tiny state that sadly builds nuclear submarines and other deadly weapons at the expense of the real needs of the people. $35.4 billion was spent in 2020 for the nuclear weapons program alone. Imagine how much human suffering could be relieved with even one half of that budget. As members of the body of Christ we pledge ourselves to work tirelessly to rid the world of this existential threat that can destroy life on this planet in a matter of minutes. Let us give thanks for the thousand of women and men, past and present, who have worked so hard to bring about the historic “UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”