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“I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.” 
Pope Francis, 2017 World Day of Peace Message

The Back from the Brink Campaign       

Campaign Duration: August 6, 2019 – August 9, 2020

Goal:

Get your local government (state, city, town or county) to adopt publicly a Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War resolution.

Overview: 

Can you imagine the United States abolishing nuclear weapons? This campaign is a next step toward making this a reality. This is an invitation to PCUSA regions, local groups, and members to participate in a one-year campaign to call on your local legislatures to pass the Back from the Brink anti-nuclear resolution (www.preventnuclearwar.org). We can do it together and PCUSA will post progress as individual groups report on their goal and actions.

We call on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

  1. Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
  2. Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. president to launch a nuclear attack;
  3. Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert;
  4. Canceling the plan to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons;
  5. Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

For example, Councilmember Tom Hucker of Montgomery County Council in Maryland proposed a very similar resolution, which is currently being actively supported by local peace groups, including Pax Christi.

Why Now?

For their efforts and focus on banning nuclear weapons, the Nobel Awards Committee gave the 2017 Nobel Peace Award to the International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN continues to advocate for additional nation states to sign and ratify the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. At this point 70 nation states have signed the treaty and 23 nation states have ratified it. Once 50 nation states have ratified it, it will become international law, which means nuclear weapons will become illegal.

To further this objective – particularly in nuclear-armed countries – ICAN is working to change public opinion through their Cities Appeal. In the United States, one of the leaders in this effort is Back from the Brink. Cities and local governments are asked to sign resolutions supporting dramatic limitations on nuclear weapons. Although these resolutions do not directly affect funding for these weapons, the resolutions are an educational tool about nuclear weapons’ destructiveness and cost and can become a vehicle to change public opinion away from a “deterrence” mentality. At this time, resolutions have been passed by the State of California and a number of cities such as Los Angeles and Baltimore, as well as a number of local municipalities. The momentum is building; in May 2019, the City of Paris, which is the capital of a nuclear-armed country, passed an anti-nuclear resolution.

In the United States, city and local anti-nuclear resolutions are a way for us to make our voices heard, to publicly call attention to the nuclear threat to all of us, and to change public opinion toward banning nuclear weapons. While decisions about nuclear weapons require federal legislation, the threat affects all of us. Likewise, it is our tax dollars that pay for nuclear weapons. These are tax dollars that could go to our local governments for needed health, education and infrastructure needs. In pursuing city and town resolutions, we need to make legislators and residents more aware of what our tax dollars are buying versus what these tax dollars could fund locally.

Supporters of the International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons’ (ICAN) Cities Appeal, and Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War, include:

Pax Christi USA and many local Pax Christi groups. Some other supporting organizations are Pax Christi International, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

Current tensions in the world, for example, with Iran and North Korea, could easily escalate into nuclear conflict, underscoring the need to act now to reduce the nuclear threat.

Steps to Take:

The Back from the Brink Campaign is a joint effort that PCUSA invites each Pax Christi regional and local group to join. All members can be involved. While some members may visit individual legislators or lobby at legislative sessions, other members can give vital support by writing, emailing, and telephoning.

PCUSA will keep members informed of each group’s chosen level of government and the progress they are making throughout the year. That way, members will be able to encourage each other.

  • Choose a legislative level of government to approach, for example, Montgomery County in Silver Spring, MD.
  • Let Pax Christi USA know that you are joining our Back from the Brink Campaign and which government entity you will approach. Share periodic progress reports with PCUSA.
  • Frame a Back from the Brink resolution. This can be the same or similar to one other groups have used or one being currently pursued at your chosen level of government.
  • Identify one or more legislators or councilpersons who might be in agreement with the resolution. Ask each one to propose and/or co-sponsor the resolution in their legislative body.
  • Develop a strategy for reaching out to the elected members of the legislative body you have chosen. Visit, write, and telephone other legislators to support the sponsored resolution. Persevere; this may take sustained effort.
  • Seek partners. There are other peace, faith, policy and science groups who support bans on nuclear weapons. Find local groups and coordinate with them. For example, in Montgomery County, Silver Spring, MD, the initiative to approach the Montgomery County Council came from Peace Action and Back from the Brink. Pax Christi–St. John the Baptist in Silver Spring has been supporting Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker’s anti-nuclear resolution. At this point four of nine council members are supportive. The efforts to increase the number of council supporters continues.

Sign Up and Join the Campaign Here

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Background:

Pax Christi USA

This proposal is focused on two of Pax Christi USA’s priorities:

  • Spirituality of Nonviolence and Peacemaking
  • Disarmament, Demilitarization and Reconciliation with Justice

PCUSA has been supportive of these initiatives through its webinars, public statements, and periodic conference calls with PC leaders who have specifically indicated a focus on nuclear disarmament issues. The Back from the Brink Campaign calls each individual member, local group, and region to a concerted and communal effort in the 2019-2020 year.

Pax Christi International (PCI)

PCI is actively involved in engaging the Vatican in working toward nuclear disarmament. After meeting with Vatican officials in Rome in April 2016, PCI created the Nonviolence Initiative which provides extensive resources through the website: nonviolencejustpeace.net

Vatican Statements

Support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation has been emphasized by popes over the past 50 years from Pope Saint John XIII to Pope Francis.

 “Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control.”
– Pope Saint John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963

“I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.”
– Pope Francis, 2017 World Day of Peace Message

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Statements

See USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/index.cfm

“We must continue to say No to the very idea of nuclear war…The United States should commit itself never to use nuclear weapons first.”
– The Harvest of Peace is Sown in Justice, a Reflection of the National Council of Catholic Bishops on the Tenth Anniversary of the Challenge of Peace, November 17, 1993