By Mary Hladky  May 5, 2018

Photography by Mark A Semet

PeaceWorks had the immense honor of co-sponsoring a presentation by Matthew Bolton, PhD and Emily Welty, PhD.  Both are involved in, and committed to, the Nobel prize winning work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  They spoke on April 28 at the Community of Christ Stone Church in Independence, MO.

ICAN is an international organization which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its advocacy of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The treaty was adopted on July 7, 2017 by 122 U.N. member states prohibiting the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.  The Ban Treaty makes nukes illegal under international law, just like chemical weapons and landmines.   Matthew was instrumental in the treaty’s language addressing moral, ethical and humanitarian issues.

Matthew described the horrendous effects of just one nuclear weapon dropped on Independence.  More than 200,000 people would die immediately, and many more would be grievously injured, suffering burned flesh and radiation poisoning, adding to the death toll.  In the aftermath of the blast, the wind would carry radiation for 200 miles. The radiation fallout would cause birth defects and health consequences for generations.

Emily spoke passionately about her opposition to nuclear weapons and her work with the interfaith community.  Emily said that nuclear weapons are a moral and religious issue.  She contends that religious leaders should be in the forefront, speaking out as people of faith, trusting in God not nuclear weapons.   She also stated, these weapons are a diversion of resources that would be better used to fund human needs.

Last November, Emily attended a Vatican City symposium entitled “Prospects for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament.”  The message of the conference was that the threat and possession of nuclear weapons was to be condemned and nuclear weapons as deterrence was not acceptable.   While in Rome, Emily was honored to have had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.  In fact, The Vatican was the first state to ratify the nuclear ban treaty.

Currently there is a nuclear weapons modernization discussion.  Our government says we must modernize our aging nuclear weapons, to keep us safe and to be more effective.  This is a false choice – do we say let’s improve our chemical weapons arsenal?  We must oppose nuclear weapons because they are made to indiscriminately kill large numbers of people and destroy the world in which we live.

There is very hopeful news around the negotiations between North & South Korea.  This is a major breakthrough and an historic moment.  This moment was made possible by many years of work done by civil society and current powerful diplomacy between the leaders of North & South Korea.  This is an excellent example of what’s possible, that history can be changed.

Matthew and Emily didn’t want to overwhelm us with the dangers of nuclear weapons but instead move us to action.    Emily said we are in the world to change it and we all need to do our part.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Change the way we talk about nuclear weapons, speak out against them with family and friends. Explain why we need to eliminate them.
  • Take one step forward – call your legislators, write a letter to the editor, resist, and / or push back.
  • Ask your church to speak out.
  • Investigate the ethical policies of companies where you invest your money – do they invest in nuclear weapons?
  • Do civil disobedience – those who risk jail say they are more afraid of total destruction and climate change than jail.

We must let it be known that we will not live under this nuclear threat any longer – we say NO to nuclear weapons.

Thank You Emily & Matthew!