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Churches: Peacemaking _not_ optional

Anonymous — December 1983

In the following article, we have summarised some of the recent developments in North American religious institutions. We have done so, not to imply that the following churches are any more pacifist than the religious organisations not represented here, but simply to demonstrate the attention that the world’s religious leaders are focussing on the issue of disarmament.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. We feel that it is important for such a list to be available, but we have neither the space nor the resources necessary to present it. There are, however, ways people can find out about the policies of other religious institutions. For more information, please contact your local Project Ploughshares office, CANDIS. or the administration of the church in question.

The Editors

World Council of Churches

July and August 1983 — At its Sixth assembly, held in Vancouver, the WCC approved a Statement on Peace and Justice which included these positions and recommendations:

Roman Catholic Church

November 28, 1980 — the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement urging Catholics not to buy war toys.

October 1981 — The CCCB issued a statement under the title The Neutron Bomb Enough is Enough! An excerpt:

“We therefore join our fellow bishops in the United States and the growing number of American citizens in condemning the decision of their government on the neutron bomb. We also ask members of the Catholic community and the people of Canada to oppose vigorously the build-up of nuclear arms by all nations and especially the United States and the Soviet Union. At some point we must say STOP. That time is now!”

May 3, 1983 — After a two-day meeting in Chicago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a pastoral letter titled The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response. The letter is over 30 pages long, and is directed both to Catholics and to non-Catholics. The following are excerpts from this letter.

“The present nuclear arms race has distracted us from the words of the prophets, has turned us from peacemaking and has focused our attention on a nuclear buildup leading to annihilation. We are called to turn back from this evil of total destruction and turn instead in prayer and penance toward God, toward our neighbor and toward the building of a peaceful world:

“ ‘I see before you life or death, a blessing or a curse. Choose life then, so that you and your descendants may live in the love on Yahweh your God…’ (Dt. 11:26).”

“Sensible and successful diplomacy, however, will demand that we avoid the trap of a form of anti-Sovietism which fails to grasp ,he central danger of a superpower rivalry in which both the United States and the Soviet Union are the players, and fails to recognize the common interest both stales have in never using nuclear weapons…. Soviet behaviour in some cases merits the adjective reprehensible, but the Soviet people and their leaders are human beings created in the image and likeness of God.”

“The evil of the proliferation of nuclear arms becomes more evident every day to all people. No one is exempt from their danger. If ridding the world of the weapons of war could be done easily, the whole human race would do so gladly tomorrow. Shall we shrink from the task because it is hard?”

“In the words of our Holy Father, we need a “moral about-face.” The whole world must summon the moral courage and technical means to say no to nuclear conflict; no to weapons of mass destruction; no to an arms race which robs the poor and the vulnerable; and no to the moral danger of a nuclear age which places before humankind indefensible choices of constant terror or surrender. Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but by our Lord Jesus.”

Canadian Church Leaders

A statement on Canada’s Nuclear Weapons Policies was presented to Prime Minister Trudeau on December 14, 1982. The statement was presented by:

- Archbishop Henri Legare, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; – Dr. Russel Legge, president of the Canadian Council of Churches; – Dr. Robert Binharnmer, president of the Lutheran Church (Canada); – Archbishop E.W. Scott, primate, Anglican Church of Canada; – Rev. Clarke MacDonald, Moderator of the United Church of Canada; – Dr. Wayne Smith, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

The following is a summary of their recommendations for alternative Canadian policies.

The statement also urges the Canadian government to support the principle of the Waldheim proposal to fund research and disarmament education at home as well as internationally through the World Disarmament Campaign.

United Church

In response to a specific call of the 28th General Council, the United Church prepared a policy statement on disarmament and militarisation, entitled The Search for Peace in the Eighties (August 1982). The following are some of their recommendations.

A. To the Church:

B. To the Private Sector:

C. To the Government:

Anglican Church of Canada


May 1981 — National Executive Council passes resolution stating that the ACC opposes the testing in Canada of the cruise missile.

4-12 June 1983 — General Synod passes resolutions:


September 1981 — Synod of the Diocese of Toronto resolved that it:

September 1983 — Synod of the Diocese of Toronto resolved that it urges each parish of the diocese to: