Commentary: Faith leaders, heed pope’s call on nuclear weapons

Washington state’s legacy is tied to nuclear weapons; its religious leaders have a duty to oppose them.

By Carly Brook / For The Herald

Just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons while paying homage to the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan. Nagasaki was destroyed by atomic weapons with plutonium produced in Washington state’s Catholic Diocese.

The Holy Father declared: “With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home. The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth. How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”

Washington state has the largest collection of deployed nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on Hood Canal, just 20 miles from Seattle. This nuclear weapons installation, added to Washington state’s large city centers and many other military installations, makes our state a primary target in the event of a nuclear exchange.

Washington state is also home to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most contaminated nuclear site in the Western Hemisphere, and the Midnite Mine, a former nuclear weapons uranium mine located on the Spokane Tribe of Indians Reservation, and it hosts one of the largest communities of Marshall Islanders in the United States, whose home was the site of67 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests during the Cold War.

The legacy of nuclear weapons and their production in Washington has — and continues to — disproportionately affect communities of color and indigenous people, none of whom has been adequately compensated for the environmental and health consequences of nuclear weapons activities pursued by the United States government during the 50 years of the Cold War.

Congress recently approved funding to deploy a new kind of nuclear weapon: the W76-2 warhead. This gateway nuke, which is being called “useable” will be deployed on Trident nuclear submarines just 20 miles from Seattle in the coming months.

As a person of faith, and coordinator of the Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition, we call on religious leaders in Seattle, especially the Seattle Archbishop, to heed the words of Pope Francis in Nagasaki. We call on faith leaders to join other faith-based members of the Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition and actively preach to your congregants that the continuing possession and so-called modernization of nuclear weapons is immoral.

As the pope said, “Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.” I respectfully suggest that Seattle Archbishop Paul Etinne and other faith leaders should act accordingly.

Carly Brook is a member of the Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition.

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