Christians must advocate for end to war, say bishops

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The International Affairs department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has released a new document that presents a Catholic approach to issues around arms control and disarmament.

In ‘Called to be Peacemakers’, the authors argue that if Catholics are to answer Christ’s call to stand as peacemakers in a troubled world, they must make striving to limit the proliferation of weapons and advancing the cause of global disarmament an integral part of their mission.

“There’s an urgent need for us, as Christians, to advocate for an end to violence and war in our world today,” said Bishop Nicholas Hudson, newly-elected Chair of the International Affairs department.

“More than 140,000 people are killed each year due to armed conflict, not to mention the wider impacts of war, such as restricted access to clean water, food, healthcare and basic services.”

The document clarifies that the Church’s call for general and complete disarmament does not mean the complete elimination of all weaponry and defence capabilities. Instead, it advocates eliminating weapons of mass destruction, regulating conventional arms, lowering military spending, and strengthening mechanisms for peace.

“Called to be Peacemakers presents the arguments for disarmament – in terms of both conventional and nuclear weaponry – through a Catholic lens informed by Catholic social teaching,” it says.

“Vast sums of public money are spent on weaponry. One can legitimately argue that these funds could be better used to alleviate hardship and promote the common good of humanity.”

Saying that courageous decisions should be taken on a global scale, co-author Bishop William Kenney, a long-term opponent of nuclear weapons said, “I would echo Pope Francis’ call that now is the time to counter the logic of fear with the ethic of responsibility.”

“Nations have a right to defend themselves, it is even in the Gospel, the man who keeps watch will stop the burglar coming. But that right should not be extended. Global cooperation is needed when it comes to meaningful disarmament, and we must foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue.”

The bishops also expressed their growing concerns over fast-developing autonomous weaponry and the ethics governing their use, making specific mention of weapons designed to identify and attack targets without the need for further human intervention.

“Globally we have been too slow to acknowledge the immorality of different forms of weaponry such as Chemical or Blinding Laser Weapons,” Bishop Declan Lang, former chair of the International Affairs department, said.

“We must learn from this and work towards a global moratorium on the development and use of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). We cannot abdicate our moral responsibilities.”

‘Called to be Peacemakers’ puts particular emphasis on the idea that every human life lost to violence and conflict is a tragedy for our universal family.

“This is a challenging time for the global community, and we are called to promote peace and unity among nations – both seeking an end to war and at the same time addressing some of the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time such as the impact of climate change. No country acting on its own can solve these problems.”

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David Goodwin