PAT POWER. Nuclear disarmament.

I find it incredible that Australia is refusing to be part of the UN negotiations on a new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. 

Not being married, I don’t have children of my own, but my four sisters have given me 17 nephews and nieces and there are now 48 in the next generation. They are all very precious to me and at times the state of our world makes me very fearful for their future.

I find it incredible that Australia is refusing to be part of the UN negotiations on a new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. Surely our government should be part of every effort to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons which pose such a threat to world peace and even the very future of our planet.

Pope Francis in the four years since his election has won the hearts, not only of Catholics but of countless people of good will precisely because he reaches out to every person as a brother or sister, regardless of their status, race or religion. Like his patron, Francis of Assisi, he is undeniably a man of peace.

In his World Day of Peace message for the beginning of this year, he wrote about the very issue which brings us together this morning. “An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.” The Pope goes on to say “I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.”

At the end of 2012, Pope Francis had expressed these sentiments in writing to the participants of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. He wrote: “Nuclear weapons are a global problem, affecting all nations, and impacting on future generations and the planet which is our home. A global ethic is needed if we are to reduce the nuclear threat and work towards nuclear disarmament.”

I wouldn’t ever say that I was ashamed to be an Australian because I hope the Australian character is nobler than many of our government policies. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I argued strongly against Australia going to war, asking this question “Is an Iraqi life of any less value than an Australian life, a British life or an American life?” It is only when we see ourselves as part of the one human family where everyone is our brother or sister, that we will have the right perspective. We can ask similar questions in regard to Australia’s attitude to refugees and to foreign aid which is being continually reduced at a time when the more prosperous nations should be reaching out to those most in need.

Is Australia’s boycotting of the UN conference another example of our Government being short-sighted and mean-spirited? Pope Francis urges us to look at the big picture when he says the youth of today and tomorrow deserve better than what they are being offered. “They deserve a peaceful world order based on the unity of the human family, grounded on respect, cooperation, solidarity and compassion….Now is the time to foster a climate of trust and sincere dialogue.

“Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. To prioritise such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.

“Individually and collectively, we are responsible for the present and future well-being of our brothers and sisters. It is my great hope that this responsibility will inform our efforts in favour of nuclear disarmament, for a world without nuclear weapons is truly possible.”

Pat Power was formerly Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn. This is an extract from a speech that Pat Power delivered at a rally outside Parliament House on 28 March, 2017.

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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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