By Stephen Brown
A group of German ecumenical activists including former World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Konrad Raiser has criticised the German government for its failure to support the United Nations treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
“It has become clear to many people in recent months that nuclear weapons do not offer lasting security and protection, but remain a continuing threat to humanity and creation,” the ecumenical activists said in an appeal published in Berlin on 20 February, referring to the stand-off between the United States and North Korea.
They noted that 2018 marks the WCC’s 70th anniversary and that since its founding in Amsterdam in 1948, the WCC has repeatedly spoken out against nuclear weapons, describing them as a “crime against humanity” at its assembly in Vancouver in 1983.
The ecumenical activists praised the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its efforts leading to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in New York in July 2017.
The group said the German government had undermined its credibility in peace efforts through its refusal to take part in the UN treaty negotiations.
“We know that such treaties do not automatically lead to the abolition of nuclear weapons,” the activists stated. “However, to abdicate from efforts to reduce and ultimately abolish nuclear weapons is not just gross negligence. It is a scandal.”
Germany has a special responsibility for nuclear disarmament, they underlined, because of unilateral commitments made on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by the former East and West German states before German unification in 1990.
The ecumenical group includes peace activists from the former East and West Germany, and they recalled church statements on peace and disarmament.
“Our churches risk losing their credibility if they do not clearly call on the German government to no longer reject disarmament initiatives within the UN framework,” the activists stated.
Alongside Konrad Raiser, signatories to the appeal include two former presidents of the church-linked Action Reconciliation/Services for Peace organization, Ruth Misselwitz and Elisabeth Raiser; Joachim Garstecki, a former general secretary of the German section of Pax Christi who was a peace researcher for the Protestant churches in East Germany; Heino Falcke, an initiator of the WCC’s Conciliar Process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation; and Hans Misselwitz, who after East Germany’s free elections of 1990 was a state secretary in the East German foreign ministry and part of the negotiations for German unification.