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Churches protest arms race

Jon Spencer — September 1983

After much debate at its Sixth Assembly in Vancouver last month, the World Council of Churches adopted a statement strongly opposing the nuclear arms race.

Calling the deployment of nuclear weapons “a crime against humanity,” the statement was opposed by less than five of the 835 delegates.

“We urge the churches to press their governments, especially in those countries which have nuclear weapons capabilities, to elaborate and ratify an international legal instrument which would outlaw as a crime against humanity the possession as well as the use of nuclear arms, read the Statement, which became the official position of the world’s largest interfaith religious group.

The statement also requested that member churches explore the nonviolent protest methods, such as civil disobedience.

Much of the controversy over the document was raised by delegates from the Third World, who feared that the preoccupation of the developed nations with the danger of nuclear war would cause the issues of human rights and social justice to be ignored.

The WCC finally decided to focus on both issues in the coming seven-year period before the next assembly, citing the dramatic increase in starvation, military oppression and disease since the 1975 Nairobi assembly.

“We know how critical this moment is in the life of the world, like the turning of a page of history. We hear the cries of millions who face a daily struggle for survival, who are crushed by military power or the propaganda of the powerful … Our world, God’s world, has to choose between life and death, blessing and curse.”