WASHINGTON — An international group of religious and scientific leaders Monday launched an appeal to the United States and all other nuclear states to pledge never to use nuclear weapons and re-affirm their commitments to achieving total nuclear disarmament.

The appeal, signed by the head of the U.S. National Council of Churches (NCC) and the president of the international Catholic peace group, Pax Christi, and 74 others–including four Nobel laureates–declared such weapons to be “inherently immoral” and expressed particular concern over U.S. plans to develop of a new generation of nuclear bombs.

” Even so-called ‘mini-nukes’ and ‘bunker-busters’ would have disastrous effects,” the statement declared. “Threatened use of nuclear weapons in the name of deterrence is morally wrong because it holds innocent people hostage for political and military purposes.”

” Why do we continue to construct weapons that have the power to destroy us,” asked Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the NCC, which represents some 140,000 Protestant congregations in the U.S., “rather than build systems and structures that will save lives and help all persons reach the potential for which God created them?”

Edgar said the appeal was being made with a “sense of real urgency,” in light of new nuclear planning by the Bush administration and the failure to date of any of the declared nuclear powers to substantially reduce their stockpiles.
More than a decade after the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia retain a total of about 10,000 tactical and strategic nuclear weapons each. Together, they account for more than 95 percent of the world’s total arsenal.

According to recent estimates by the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, China is next with an estimated 400 warheads, followed by France, with 350; Israel, with perhaps 200; Britain, with 185; India, with 60 or more; and Pakistan, with as many as 48. The Central Intelligence Agency says it believes North Korea has had as many as two devices for several years.

Under the 1968 Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), nuclear countries must not only halt the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear countries, but also agree to reduce their own arsenals to zero. In 1996, the International Court of justice at The Hague ruled that the NPT required eventual disarmament, a position that was formally reaffirmed in 2000 by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Sign the Moral Appeal for a Safer World without Nuclear Weapons

This article was originally published by OneWorld.net.