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25.02.2019 – New York, USA – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

South Africa: from nuclear armed state to disarmament hero
South Africa ratifies the Ban Treaty

Today, the only country that went from developing its own nuclear arsenal to dismantling it and being an outspoken advocate against these weapons of mass destruction, took another critical step towards a nuclear-weapons-free-world: in the halls of the UN HQ in New York, South Africa just ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

ICAN welcomes South Africa’s continued leadership on nuclear disarmament and hopes its action will inspire other African nations to adhere to the Treaty. As a continent, Africa has historically taken a strong position against nuclear weapons; now individual countries have a unique opportunity to make a significant impact towards the rapid entry into force of The Nuclear Ban Treaty.

A quick history of South Africa’s Nuclear weapons

South Africa’s ratification of the TPNW is unique, because of its own history with nuclear weapons.  As early as 1948, uranium-rich South Africa was interested in atomic energy, and the mining, trade and energy industry that could be built around it. The government bought its first reactor from the US in 1957.

While officially the purpose of the nuclear explosion program did not change from peaceful to military purposes until 1977, US intelligence reports show that South Africa formally began its nuclear weapons program in 1973.  Initially, heavy international pressure kept them from testing these weapons. But by 1982, South Africa had developed and built its first nuclear explosive device
. By 1989, South Africa had 6 bombs, each containing 55kg of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), capable of delivering an explosive equivalent of 19 kilotons of TNT.

Read more about South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme at NTI >>

From nuclear-armed state to disarmament champion

In 1989, the government officially ended the nuclear program, and South Africa joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state in 1991. By 1994, the IAEA confirmed that all of South Africa’s nuclear weapons had been dismantled.

South Africa has been a champion for a world without nuclear weapons ever since. In 1996, they joined other African nations in declaring Africa a nuclear-weapons-free zone through the Treaty of Pelindaba, named after South Africa’s old research facility. The African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) – established for the purpose of ensuring States Parties’ compliance with their undertakings in the Treaty – is based in Pretoria. In 1999, they adhered to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

A 1998 address to the UN General Assembly by President Nelson Mandela illustrates the ways in which South Africa challenged the arguments of deterrence used by other nuclear-armed nations:

“We must ask the question, which might sound naive to those who have elaborated sophisticated arguments to justify their refusal to eliminate these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction – why do they need them anyway!

“In reality, no rational answer can be advanced to explain in a satisfactory manner what, in the end, is the consequence of Cold War inertia and an attachment to the use of the threat of brute force, to assert the primacy of some States over others.”

In the following years, South Africa continued to stand firmly behind the principle of nuclear disarmament, and became part of a core group of countries pushing the humanitarian initiative to end nuclear weapons since 2012. That initiative grew into a movement for a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, which led to the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on July 7th, 2017.  South Africa signed the Treaty on the day it opened for signature, and will now become the 22nd party.

“As a country that voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons programme, South Africa is of the firm view that there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction […] We are making a clarion call to all member states of the UN to sign and ratify the ban treaty in order to rid the world and humanity of these lethal weapons of mass destruction.” – Jacob Zuma, September 2017, signing ceremony of the TPNW

At ICAN, we welcome and celebrate this ratification and encourage South Africa to maintain its leading role in the global efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

Through the darkness
I will make my way
Through the night
To God’s new day
David Herr

15th February 2019 by Mark Russ

On the 18th-20th January, around sixty Friends gathered at Woodbrooke for ‘Answering That of God in Everyone’: A Diversity and Inclusion National Gathering. Friends were offered the thought-provoking insights of three non-Quaker keynote speakers – exploring what it means to be white, looking beyond gender binaries, and issues around class and leadership – as well as optional workshops led by Woodbrooke tutors. Rather than offer a detailed account of the gathering, or a summary of the wisdom of the speakers, I’d like to offer three of my own reflections on the gathering.

  1. The challenge of evangelism

Lynne Cullens, a priest in the Church of England, joined us as a keynote speaker. She had spent most of the day with us before speaking on the Saturday evening. At one point in her talk, she said: ‘There’s something that confuses me about Quakers. I don’t know where you stand on evangelism…’ For Lynne, it was perplexing that a faith community that claims to be rooted in Christianity should be so fuzzy on Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matt 28:19).

British Quakers have largely rejected the word ‘evangelism’ and the idea of ‘mission’, perhaps because these words have associations with oppressive, restricting and damaging expressions of Christianity. We have replaced evangelism with the less threatening word ‘outreach’, accompanied by a reluctance to share the Quaker message for fear of being pushy.

For me, this change in terminology goes to the heart of our dilemma as liberal Quakers, especially in relation to work on diversity and inclusion. When asking ourselves how we unconsciously make different people unwelcome in our community, we have to ask ourselves if we honestly want more Quakers. If we are happy to be with people like us, if we think that different people can happily be accommodated elsewhere, then there’s no rush to go out and make disciples. If we think that Quakerism only appeals to certain types of people, or isn’t for everyone, then there is no imperative to be diverse. Our attitude to outreach may itself be a barrier to being more inclusive.

Perhaps we need to return to evangelism in its truest meaning – bringing good news – which requires us to articulate what the Quaker good news is. Can we agree on what the Quaker good news is, and do we think the truth at the heart of the Quaker tradition is worth sharing with everyone?

  1. An apocalyptic process

For me, the gathering was an apocalyptic event. That might sound like a rather extreme description! Most people associate ‘apocalypse’ with the violent destruction of the world, but the original meaning  of this Greek word is ‘to unveil’ or ‘to reveal’. The spirituality of the first Quakers was apocalyptic. They experienced the Light as revealing their own darkness. They latched on to the Biblical imagery of earthquakes and the threshing floor to describe their experience of having everything false shaken away. An apocalyptic experience is one that draws back the curtain, revealing the true nature of things.

For me, this gathering was apocalyptic in that it attempted to reveal who we are as a Society of Friends, warts and all. Robert Beckford spoke about the invisibility, the ‘normality’, of whiteness, and how its power lies in its invisibility. Edwina Peart spoke about Quaker arms manufacturer Samuel Galton. When the Light shines on our darkness, or on our whiteness, or on shameful aspects of our history, it can make us very uncomfortable.

I’m sure there were Friends at the gathering who saw things within themselves they didn’t like. I’m sure we saw things in our fellow Friends that we didn’t like. The unveiling work of examining our power and privilege, and how they operate in the Society of Friends, is a painful, destabilising process. The imagery of the earthquake is still appropriate. This revealing work stirs things up, but it’s necessary if we are to be shaken free of everything preventing us from answering that of God in everyone.

The ‘Body of Christ’

Apocalyptic work stirs up strong emotions. One of the things clearly unveiled to many Friends at the gathering was the conflict and pain surrounding the inclusion of transgendered Friends. The image that spoke to me through this was the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). In the New Testament, this image is used to describe a group of diverse people united in their love for one another, and it’s this image of unity in diversity that’s always appealed to me. Lately, I’ve begun to appreciate another aspect of this image. Because it’s the body of Christ, it’s a crucified body. It’s a body that suffers. It hurts to be in a faith community.

In the Body of Christ, when one member suffers, the whole body suffers with it. This gathering clearly showed that there are members of the Quaker body in pain. The way through this conflict is for every Friend in the Yearly Meeting to take on the pain of this conflict as their own. We need to embrace a corporate suffering. We can’t distance ourselves from it and say ‘it’s that Friend’s/that Meeting’s problem’.  The issue of trans-inclusion is an increasingly visible open wound in British Quakerism. For its own health, the whole Yearly Meeting needs to inform itself about this raw subject.

I came away from this gathering with a sense that important work had been done, and I’m both excited and apprehensive as to how this work will continue. My prayer is that we can as a Yearly Meeting become ever more humble and ever more open to the experience of the other, so that we may answer that of God in everyone, and have that of God answered in us too.

The Postmodern Quaker

←Table of Contents

The Church, the Draft Board, and Me (3 of 12)

The Church, Part 2: “The Habit Covers a Multitude of Sins”6

The priest hearing confession acted“in the person of Christ.”

I trace the emergence of depression to a day in my third year of high school when my confessor Father Alexander — who was weak in zoology as well as pastoral theology, I would later understand — withheld God’s forgiveness from me. Although I had followed his instructions to participate in Mass and confession more often, I had continued to “abuse” myself. “That’s disgusting,” he said in the confessional. “Not even the animals do that. You come in here every week and confess the same mortal sin. [Mortal means soul-damning; I’ll discuss that further in a sidebar.] Absolution requires a sincere intention to reform: clearly, you have no such intention. I will not…

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Thais Carr

Reading for February 24 from Praying for Justice. “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.” I Timothy 5: 16

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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