As the midterm election season speeds up the legislative calendar, a proposal for setting new global priorities, transferring resources from nuclear weapons to satisfying basic needs, especially those of children, is making its way through Congress. It has just received endorsement from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Lutheran World Federation. Other church and civic bodies are expected to lend their support in the coming weeks. Here is a report from our editor in chief, Drew Christiansen, S.J.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has given its support to a new international initiative connecting cuts in nuclear weaponry to the well-being of the world's children. Peter Cardinal K.A. Turkson, above, President of the Pontifical Council, in a letter to America dated July 15, wrote that the Council “approves” of the Global Priorities Initiative “and offers it its full support.”
A generation after the end of the Cold War and a decade after the September 11 attacks, the Global Priorities Initiative is an attempt to take beginning steps to realize purposeful savings from reduction in nuclear arms in the direction of constructive peace-building. In his letter, Cardinal Turkson commended the initiative’s interest in “reducing the expenditure on Nuclear Armaments and channeling saving made on the humanitarian side.”
In a parallel move July 26, the Lutheran World Federation, in its 11th assembly, called upon its member churches “to co-sponsor and otherwise assist the Global Priorities Campaign.” Commenting on the churches’ endorsements of the Initiative, the campaign’s international coordinator Arnold Kohen said, “This is a real breakthrough. It helps pave the way toward concrete success in the not-too-distant future.”
A bipartisan U.S. Congressional measure (H. Res. 278), the Global Security Priorities Resolution, introduced by Democratic Representative Jim McGovern and Republican Representative Dan Lungren, now has 34 co-sponsors and is likely to be the subject of action in the U.S. House of Representatives before adjournment for the fall electoral campaign in October. Proponents hope that a similar measure will also be taken up by the U.S. Senate.
The resolution seeks an intermediate reduction in U.S. and Russian arsenals to 1,000 deployed nuclear warheads and a total of no more than 3,000 weapons on each side, to be achieved in the near future. The resolution affirms that savings created by reductions in nuclear arsenals should be utilized for global child survival and related nutritional, health and educational needs of children as well as for increased nuclear security measures.
An international statement promoting the Global Priorities initiative underscores the importance of Congressional action. The international statement also calls for a United Nations resolution to help set the stage for specific international measures of this nature in the years ahead, working with agencies doing similar work. Toward this end, a series of international consultations with experts, religious and political leaders and civil society will begin this fall.
Given the U.S. electoral schedule and political climate, Mr. Kohen noted the importance of gaining further momentum for the Initiative this fall. “After more than a decade of preparation we have a unique opportunity, which comes at a time of deep economic uncertainty and fractious political circumstances. Nonetheless, with strong efforts by our expanding collaborative network, we hope the Global Security Priorities Resolution will be adopted this fall, which would represent a key component in advancing this Initiative.”
Cardinal Turkson’s letter is available here.
For more on the Global Priorities Initiative, the bipartisan House Resolution and the International Statement, visit www.globalpriorities.org.
Drew Christiansen, S.J.