By Parliament UN Youth Representative: Tahil Sharma
The United Religions Initiative organized a great panel of activists and ambassadors who work with communities through URI’s ‘Cooperation Circles’ across the globe to make nuclear weapons a thing of the past. People like Jonathan Granoff, a 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace prize for his work advocating nuclear non-proliferation, and Dot Maver, an activist within the interfaith and peace-building spectrum, gave a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the potentials of nuclear energy and our current capabilities and uses in potentially destroying our world.
This webinar gave tools to productively say “NO!” to the atom and hydrogen bombs which threaten the greatest potential of destroying our environment and our civilization as we know it.
Remembering the everlasting impact – Meltdowns like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the obliterating potential of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the continued tests of nuclear weapons has a lasting effect on many people around the world and our environment. Believe it or not, victims of the atom bombing on Japan today face significant social and political stigma. They are stereotyped and treated as second-class citizens, which is preventing them from speaking out about their experiences. Some of the worst discrimination sees forms of insurance withheld that would help to treat ongoing side effects of the blasts. The majority of society apathetically forgets that our current nuclear weaponry has the potential to destroy the world a thousand times over. (Random fact: Japan has set up a stratified system of coverage for those affected by the bombs based on distance, the manner in which they received any form of radiation poisoning, and depending on the age group. Children within the womb during the blast, for example, are not eligible for coverage or benefits.)
The non-signatories of the NPT – Israel, India, Pakistan, South Sudan and North Korea have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which mandates only the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the goal of complete disarmament. This plays out as a great challenge for the security and stability of the world, so we continue to find and build movements for non-violence and conflict resolution. Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister and now current President of India, stated in a trip to India in 2007 that “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.” (India Times, 5/23/07) The ambiguity of such a statement can be dangerous, seeing that the continued competition for arms and the instability of peace talks between India and Pakistan could create a sense of discomfort and anxiety in the matter of growing political, social, and economic power. With all of this in mind, the speakers continued to reaffirm our ability as a civil society; as interfaith leaders and activists, we have the power to make a difference and influence the decisions necessary in abhorring and abolishing nuclear weapons.
Storytelling Holds Great Potential – From the personal stories of transformation of the Hibakusha (Survivors of the Atomic bombs in Japan) to live in the 21st century, to the new generations that demand no harm to any innocent human beings, every story has its potential to change minds, strengthen hearts, and move forward. URI UN Representative Monica Willard made note of such power by reciting the poem 20,000,000 by Justine Merritt. In a few succinct moments, she verbalized the potential of annihilation that a nuclear weapon threatens by enumerating the figure 20 million, accounting for the count of lives in the state of California. How profound and bleak a future sounds when you know it can be obliterated in seconds.
The Groundswell of the Common Man – There are a variety of ways that we, as individuals, can work together to change the status quo. Consider petitions like the Peace and Planet Petition for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (that will be presented to the United Nations on April 26th), planting A-Bomb Surviving Saplings in your community and hosting A-Bomb photo exhibitions, and believing we have the potential to stand up against the destruction of humanity and the biosphere. We must engage communities and organizations around the world, and collaborate in activism, education, and service, to raise awareness and empathy in friends and strangers alike. “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This same potential can reach the highest levels through encouraging legislators and members of parliaments to join the Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament to influence policy and law in the abolition of the nuclear use of weapons.
Reflecting on the Power In Our Hands – Before we began the webinar, Rt. Rev. Bill Swing, Founder and President of the United Religions Initiative, read a prayer that reminded me of the beauty and power of all faith traditions, secular perspectives, and spiritual practices; it reminded me that the power to create and destroy was in the hands of all human beings. My own faith traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism have always reminded me that every good and bad action is accounted for and that I am immediately repaid through the karma I deserve. If it is not in my mind and heart that I must work to change and save the world in every way possible, I am doing a disservice to myself, the world and to the Divine I eternally devote myself to.
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