By Kristin Scheer

On Jan. 20, 18 people congregated at Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House in KC MO to share an evening meal and ideas about what a nuclear-free world could look like.

Chefs Luis Lara and Lois Swimmer, members of the Cherith Brook Elders Circle, do clean-up after preparing rice, fajitas, burritos, and tamales for the meal before the sharing, “What if we were free from nuclear weapons?”

It was a night for the imagination and dreams, for if we don’t know where we are going, how are we going to get there? If we can imagine it, we can create it.

Ann Suellentrop got us started by reminding us that Jan. 22 marks the 2nd anniversary of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entry into force. She reminded us of the work the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) did to bring it about. The treaty means that, according to international law, nuclear weapons, their development, testing, production, acquisition, possession, use, or threatened use are now illegal. Ann told us of the letter over 100 organizations (including PeaceWorks KC, which is also an ICAN member) are sending to President Biden urging him to join the international community and sign the treaty.

Ann Suellentrop, center, says PeaceWorks and more than 100 other groups signed a letter going to President Biden, asking him to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Listening, from left: Tom Scott, Charles Carney, and reporter Kristin Scheer.

Charles Carney said this would be a night about “keeping our eyes on the prize.” Conversations about nuclear weapons are often dark and dire, he said, with predictions of annihilation, death, and destruction if we don’t succeed in dismantling them before they get used. “But what if we do?” Charles asked. “What could we accomplish with all those misplaced resources?”

Jim Hannah dreamt of the child who would one day ask, “Mother, what is a nuclear weapon?”

Ron Faust declared, “I am a nuclear-free ZIP code.” See his poem at https://peaceworkskc.org/nuclear-weapons/nuke-free-zip-code.

Debora Demeter imagined a future without homelessness.

Henry Stoever dreamt of effective, compelling communication that will turn the tide in this vital conversation. “We are living on death row,” he said. “It does not have to be this way.”

Others imagined a world where children played freely, enjoying a healthy environment without climate crisis concerns.

Ted John of Vets for Peace imagined a future without fear of total annihilation, “where we can have the courage to lay down all our weapons,” he said. “Someone has to be brave enough to do it first.”

Patty Wernel referred to the theory of abundance, saying, “There is plenty to meet everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.”

Charles Carney also imagined a world without fear. “We could all take care of each other,” he said. “Imagine what we could do if we were not afraid of each other. We could solve the environmental crisis.”

Ann Suellentrop, a retired pediatric nurse, imagined a world where all children had effective health care, and all parents had the support they needed so they could focus on caring for their children. “Imagine a world without child abuse, where all the incurable diseases have cures and all medical mysteries are solved,” said Ann.

We dreamt of a world of mental and emotional wellness. Cris Mann imagined a world without competition, where cooperation was the new law of the land, where we can all be winners as we take care of each other and “feel free to be who we are.”

Bennette Dibben brought artwork and imagined a ribbon of peace wrapped around the world. Sharon Hannah imagined all the ugly silos once poised to deliver implements of terror, now delivering messages of peace, “shooting out banners of love.”

It was a grand and uplifting night for all!

—Kristin Scheer, an environmental activist, serves on the PeaceWorks KC Board.