"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Praying (and Working) for a Nuclear Weapon-Free World

Greetings Friends,

The monument "Stronger Than Death"
in Semey, Kazakhstan
Earlier this week the United Nations, in a truly historic vote, moved closer to establishing a legally binding instrument to prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. The United States shamelessly lobbied and pressured other nations to vote against the measure. The General Assembly will take a final vote in December, and the UN will then take up deliberations in 2017 to negotiate the details and finalize this important work on a treaty to de-legitimize and legally ban nuclear weapons.

So many people from so many nations have been working tirelessly, and in so many different ways, to create a nuclear weapon-free world. With the nuclear-armed nations and their vassal states (living under the mythical "nuclear umbrella") pushing so hard against our efforts, the job has been anything but easy.

In August, many of us attended an international conference in Astana, Kazakhstan organized by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Kazakh Government to discuss and plan concrete actions to abolish nuclear weapons. Nearly 200 legislators, religious leaders, government officials, diplomats, veterans, representatives of international organizations, academics, scientists, medical professionals, lawyers, and nuclear disarmament campaigners gathered for this conference, which was held on the 25th anniversary of the closing of the Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan.

URI's United Nations Representative,
Monica Willard, with the Nuclear Prayer
 at the monument "Stronger Than Death"
From 1949, the Semipalatinsk region in the (then) Soviet republic of Kazakhstan was the site of 456 test explosions of nuclear weapons. The multigenerational impacts on human health on the steppe of northeast Kazakhstan have been devastating, with over 1.5 million people suffering cancers, birth deformities, and other serious illness or death from the resulting radiation.

On August 31st, some of the Astana conference delegates travelled to learn and bear witness to the legacy of nuclear testing on the Kazakh people. Some travelled to the nuclear test site itself; and others visited the medical center that treats victims of the nuclear testing, the radiation effects research center, and the Peace Park commemorating the Kazakh nuclear testing legacy.

At both "Ground Zero" at the test site and at the base of the monument, "Stronger than Death", in the Semey Peace Park, the two groups circled and read the Prayer for a Nuclear Free World (The Nuclear Prayer). The prayer, written by The Right Rev William E. Swing, founder of United Religion Initiative (URI), to help strengthen interfaith movements against nuclear weapons, brought us together in a shared belief in our common humanity and the possibility of a nuclear weapon-free world.

Here is the video of the group at the Peace Park reading the Nuclear Prayer (and below it the full text):

Nuclear Prayer (unedited) from Leonard Eiger on Vimeo.

The Beginning and the End are in your hands, O Creator of the Universe. And in our hands you have placed the fate of this planet. We, who are tested by having both creative and destructive power in our free will, turn to you in sober fear and intoxicating hope. We ask for your guidance and to share in your imagination in our deliberations about the use of nuclear force. Help us to lift the fog of atomic darkness that hovers so pervasively over our Earth, Your Earth, so that soon all eyes may see life magnified by your pure light. 
Bless all of us who wait today for your Presence and who dedicate ourselves to achieve your intended peace and rightful equilibrium on Earth. In the Name of all that is holy and all that is hoped. Amen. 
   - Written by the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing,
      President and Founder
      United Religions Initiative (URI)
      December 4, 2014
At the end of our journey to Semey, I felt a renewed sense of hope (as I believe we all did), as well as renewed spiritual strength for the journey (and difficult work) ahead. These two small prayer circles were small, yet significant acts, and I hope that these circles can expand like ripples on the water by sharing The Nuclear Prayer with you, and you with others. As we continue to expand our circles of faith, hope and action, we can hasten the day when the leaders of the nuclear-armed nations will be forced to see the inhumanity of their actions - the crimes against humanity they commit through the possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

Toward a Nuclear Weapon-Free World,


Click here to download the PDF version of the Nuclear Prayer in English and Spanish.

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