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As people of faith, we understand that God created the universe and everything in it. Our world is an astonishingly beautiful, rich, complex, tiny piece of that creation, teeming with life and beloved in God's sight.
Since the nuclear age began in 1945 this glorious world has been faced with a fundamentally new kind of threat from nuclear weapons. Their vast power could destroy not only the present world, but with long-term radiation effects and the possibility of nuclear winter, nuclear weapons could destroy the future. Even when they are unused, their production and deployment cause significant environmental degradation, divert massive resources from human need, and add destabilizing fear to tense political situations.
Contemplating the use of nuclear weapons is an affront to God. Preparing to unleash such destructiveness runs against all the life-giving creativity that comes from God. As people of faith, we affirm life and all that nurtures it. We abhor nuclear weapons and the destruction they portend. As people of faith, we choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).
An Urgent Call-End the Nuclear Danger
A decade after the end of the Cold War, the peril of nuclear destruction is mounting. The great powers have refused to give up nuclear arms, other countries are producing them, and terrorists are trying to acquire them. Poorly guarded warheads and nuclear material in the former Soviet Union may fall into the hands of terrorists. The Bush administration is developing nuclear 'bunker busters' and threatening to use them against non-nuclear countries. The risk of nuclear war between India and Pakistan is grave.
Despite the end of the Cold War, the United States plans to keep large numbers of nuclear weapons indefinitely. The latest U.S.-Russian treaty, which will cut deployed strategic warheads to 2200, leaves both nations facing "assured destruction" and lets them keep their total arsenals (active and inactive, strategic and tactical) at more than 10,000 warheads each.
The dangers posed by huge arsenals, threats of use, proliferation, and terrorism are linked: The nuclear powers' refusal to disarm fuels proliferation, and proliferation makes nuclear materials more accessible to terrorists. The events of September 11 brought home to Americans what it means to experience a catastrophic attack. Yet the horrifying losses that day were only a fraction of what any nation would suffer if a single nuclear weapon were used on a city. The drift towards catastrophe must be reversed. Safety from nuclear destruction must be our goal. We can reach it only by reducing and then eliminating nuclear arms under binding agreements.
We therefore call on the United States and Russia to fulfill their commitments under the Nonproliferation Treaty and move together with the other nuclear powers, step by carefully inspected and verified step, to the abolition of nuclear weapons. As steps toward this goal, we call on the United States to:
* Renounce the first use of nuclear weapons.
* Permanently end the development, testing, and production of nuclear weapons.
* Seek agreement with Russia on the mutual and verified destruction of nuclear weapons withdrawn under treaties, and increase the resources available here and in the former Soviet Union to secure nuclear warheads and material and implement destruction.
* Take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert in concert with the other nuclear powers-the UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel-in order to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorized use.
* Initiate talks on further nuclear cuts, beginning with U.S. and Russian reductions to 1,000 warheads each.
For more information, contact: The Nuclear Reduction/Disarmament Initiative, Churches, Center for Theology and Public Policy, 4500 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016-5690, 202-885-8648, www.nrdi.org