Historic Union Seeks to End Threat of Annihilation
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 21, 2000) – A group of 18 retired high-ranking U.S. military officials today joined 21 national religious leaders in calling for the outlawing and prohibition of nuclear weapons worldwide. In a joint statement, the military professionals and active clergy declared the human race could be exterminated by such weapons.
"This nuclear predicament is untenable in the face of a faith in the divine and unacceptable in terms of sound military doctrine," they said.
Released at a news conference at Washington National Cathedral, the statement said nuclear arms represent "a threat to the security of our nation, a peril to world peace, a danger to the whole human family." Further, the signers declared, "the long-term reliance on nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, and the ever-present danger of their acquisition by others, is morally untenable and militarily unjustifiable."
The signers said it is past time for an international discussion of the implications of relying on nuclear weapons, and called for action "leading to the international prohibition of these weapons."
Retired Air Force General Charles A. Horner, who commanded U.S. air forces in the Persian Gulf War and was in charge of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command in the 1990's, noted there is an historic convergence of military and religious action in this issue, saying in his remarks, "This issue is one confronting our vital national interests from a security and moral point of view. It is one requiring the involvement of both military professionals and religious leaders."
The news conference, which will launch a national education program to mobilize citizen action against nuclear arms, was organized by Washington National Cathedral.
The education outreach program will provide free materials about the nuclear threat facing all humankind in the new millennium. The materials will be supplied to individual religious bodies for distribution, as they wish, to churches, synagogues and mosques. Information is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/nuclear.
"The education component of our project is key," said the Very Reverend Nathan D. Baxter, Dean of Washington National Cathedral. "Nuclear disarmament is the ultimate human rights issue. People have a right to know that more than a decade after the Cold War ended, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still exist with the power to destroy God's creation. We also have a right and responsibility to demand an end to this threat of annihilation."
Besides General Horner, signers include Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret.), former Director of Central Intelligence, Major General William F. Burns, USA (Ret.), and a host of Army, Navy and Air Force senior officers. The religious leaders include Bishop William B. Oden, President, Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, President, The Islamic Society of North America; and Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference.
Of the nuclear arms race, Dr. Siddiqi said in his remarks, "This race is against the human race. In this race there will be no winners, only losers. It is nothing but destruction, for humans and their environment. We must say to ourselves first and then to the world that we want a total and universal ban on the possession and production of nuclear weapons."
The signatories said that ". . . a peace based upon threats of inflicting annihilation and genocide upon whole populations is a peace that is corrupting, a peace that is unworthy of civilization."
The statement ends with a call for "our political and military leaders, our faith communities, and all concerned citizens to mobilize in support of this noble cause."
The news conference was followed by an interfaith service at the Cathedral to pray for the strength to stand by the statement and protect God's creation from nuclear dangers. The service included readings by Imam Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D., of the Minaret of Freedom Institute; Rabbi Deborah S. Kaiz, Washington Hebrew Congregation; and Ms. Annette Kane, Executive Director of the National Council of Catholic Women.
The interfaith service featured a procession of the statement's signers and others, with General Horner and Admiral Turner reading an alternating litany, and a sermon delivered by Chaplain (Major General) Kermit D. Johnson, USA (Ret.).
The Nuclear Reduction/Disarmament Initiative is an interfaith project led by Washington National Cathedral, working with the Fourth Freedom Forum, former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston and his Global Security Institute, and a variety of religious groups. Major funding has been provided by the Ploughshares Fund, W. Alton Jones Foundation, and The John Merck Fund.