This Sunday, September 26th is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Pax Christi USA notes that this year, for the first time, nuclear weapons have been outlawed by the Treaty on the Prohibition Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January 2021. On this day we celebrate the nuclear weapons ban treaty as a major step toward elimination of nuclear weapons and as a significant opportunity for nuclear-armed states, starting with the United States, to take steps to comply with the treaty.

To that end, we urge President Biden and the U.S. Congress to declare a new U.S. policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and to reduce the current U.S. nuclear arsenal by significant numbers. At a minimum, the nuclear modernization program, estimated to cost trillions of dollars over the next generation, should be put on hold and subject to public debate.

In urging immediate steps to reduce the threat of nuclear war, Pax Christi USA acts in accordance with many statements by Pope Francis condemning the possession of such weapons as a grave sin. In November 2019, for example, he said at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial:  

“The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.”

He also has noted the environmental and humanitarian cost of even a “small” nuclear war in many statements and has observed that spending on nuclear weapons diverts funds that should be used to care for the most vulnerable people around the world. Programs that address climate change, shelter the homeless and improve healthcare and education for all create more jobs than spending on weapons. At the present time, we reflect on which is more urgent: funding weapons that pose an existential threat or funding actions to face the existential threats brought on by climate change, inequality, injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic?

Pax Christi USA urges all people of good will on this occasion to act to advance the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Some possible actions include:

Let us continue together the work to which this day is dedicated: the total elimination of nuclear weapons, so that one day, neither war nor the threat of war endangers us, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9).

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