3. Dec 09 - 7. Dec 09

Nuclear Weapons, North East Asia and Beyond: Re-vitalizing the Ecumenical Movement

Hwacheon, South Korea


Nuclear weapons with their related technologies, production, deployment and use, are incompatible with the life of living beings. Yet they were developed, deployed and used by the United States in1945 to kill the people and destroy the life of living beings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. It was truly a fatal moment in the history of the earth.


Christian involvement in this historical development is at least ambiguous. From the beginning, Christian ethics has been implicated in the nuclear weapons development and its use. Later the nuclear weapons system was justified in the name of political realism, that is, the balance of the power or terror. “If we were to apply Niebuhr’s real politics, with its ready acceptance of the inevitability of conflict, to the present nuclear situation, it could well mean “a perverse preference for the war of mutual annihilation, simply because the war of mutual annihilation means, at least, that the other side doesn’t win either.”


In 1980’s the Ecumenical Movement for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation took up the nuclear issue as a matter of faith. As the Cold War Order was dismantled, the ecumenical movement had a chance to press the question further. However, the agenda to denuclearization of the geo-political order did not make any progress.


As the beginning of the 21stcentury took off, the US has revitalized the nuclear doctrine anew as a part of the War on Terror(People’s Charter on Peace for Life).This created a new situation where nuclear weapons could be used in the actual war and combat. Former President Gorbachov of Russia and more recently President Obama issued statements on the need to have the “world without nuclear weapons.” This lends a possibility for the negotiation for a new nuclear regime.


However, the debate on the issue is centered in the inter-state or multi-state context particularly among those states, which have already nuclear weapons and its system. The role of non-nuclear states, of non-governmental organizations and citizens’ movements and of the people’s movements is crucial, if the debates and negotiations are to be fruitful.


It is high time for the ecumenical movement to get involved in this process. It is our proposal that the issue be taken up by the World Council of Churches at its International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, 17-25 May 2011. In the light of this proposal, a local initiative and global response is needed as a modus operandi of the discussion and debate for global action for the Nuclear Free World. It is timely to have a statement from Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (August, 2009).


It is proposed to have a small consultation on nuclear pacifism on three dimensions: 1) grasping the issue from the “expertise” dimension; 2) assessing ecumenical policies on nuclear disarmament, and 3) exploring different roles and capacities for international ecumenical advocacy in this field in a northeast Asia context. It would a local initiative, inviting a global response. It is differentiated from the rationale of “think globally and act locally.”Korean local situation presents a logical and historical place to initiate a local process of consultation on the issue.


Themes of the Consultation:

1. Nuclear developments in the Korean peninsula and their implications.

The focus can be on North Korean programme which has a number of implications not only for the region but also outside. They include peace and security in North East Asia, Korean unification, nuclear proliferation etc.

2. Geopolitics of Asia and nuclear weapons.

An analysis of the geopolitical situation especially the dominant role of the USA, challenges from China and India, the role of Japan etc and its relation to nuclear arms. Here the nuclear weapon programmes of China, India and Pakistan have to be looked at.

3. Nuclear disarmament, problems and prospects.

There are several new initiatives the most prominent of them being from President Obama. Why this sudden spurt of activity especially at the state level?  Are we now joining the bandwagon or do we address the real problems and prospects?

4. People’s perspective on security and nuclear weapons.

How do people in Asia look at nuclear weapon issue? There is need to develop a people’s perspective on human security and see how it is affected by nuclear weaponization.

5. Implications, role and strategy for the ecumenical movement.

A fresh approach from the ecumenical movement is needed. The analysis under 1 to 4 will provide the context for this. Some references are made in the draft proposal to theological positions.  Many developments after the cold war and during the war on terror have raised new theological issues e.g. preemption. Formulations of position of the ecumenical movement on various nuclear related issues need revision.


The objectives of the consultation:

1.  Reflections on Nuclear-Free Korean Peninsula and its implications for North East Asia and for the global perspective of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.

2.  Reflections on the implications and role for the global ecumenical movement

3.  Exploring ecumenical strategy that can form the basis for ecumenical actions to promote a world free of nuclear weapons.

4.  Understanding the current state of affairs on the nuclear regime from the people’s perspective and engaging churches and church members.


To get the full text of the Hwacheon Call, click here.