What do the Faith Communities of Great Britain say?’
A Hindu faith perspective
In the Hindu religion, Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Destroyer exist simultaneously and represent the multiplicity of God.
We are going to determine which of the principles, Creator, Preserver, or Destroyer, shall work through each of us. If we continue to pursue nuclear proliferation, we will be open to the principles of destruction. At this moment, when world tensions are rising and violence is cycling higher, we need to take the direction of preserving the peace and creating a new opening, through abolishing all nuclear weapons, including Trident – Britain’s current nuclear-powered submarine weapons system. While America and the European Union are trying to discourage nations such as Iran from developing nuclear weapons, such an extensive rearmament programme, as a Trident replacement costing around 25 billions pounds, sends the wrong signals to real and potential proliferant nations.
At present the ruling Congress Party and the other leading Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are in favour of pursing the policy of actively developing nuclear weapons. It is also seeking assistance from America for transfer of technology for producing material and design for a new generation of nuclear weapons. India maintains a "no-first-use" "minimum nuclear deterrent," nuclear policy in the event of war as enunciated in its Nuclear Doctrine, released in 1999. It is widely estimated that India currently has between 70-100 warheads.
This is owing to a resurgence of Hindu nationalism, accompanied by a suspicion of Islam and Christianity as alien to India and threatening to Hindu values. Even moderate Hindus may be heard to say that they have been too tolerant to the minority religions. There has been a recent rise in militant Hinduism, seen in the growth of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has won considerable support in recent times. This trend is dangerous for the rise of Hindu nationalism which can potentially threaten democracy and the rights of minorities.
India is a nation of more than 1 billion people. More than 500 million people are illiterate and live in absolute poverty, more than 600 million lack basic sanitation and more than 200 million have no safe drinking water. To think of making and possessing nuclear weapons in a country like India, is not only madness and hypocritical, but a hindrance to development and a destabilising factor to the security of South-east Asian region.
Let me quote from Booker Prize winner and Indian writer Arundhati Roy’s article, ‘The End of Imagination’:
"The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democractic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man’s challenge to God. It’s worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you’re religious, then look at is this way. This world of ours is four billion, six hundred million years old.
It could end in an afternoon."
The moral condemnation of nuclear weapons appears to be strong, but it is hardly being heard and certainly not heeded by political leaders today. The longer nuclear weapons are maintained, the more societal acceptance of them seems to grow and moralists appear consigned to the wilderness.
And the moral stance is weakened when extremist clerics use the excuse of the major powers’ retention as justification for a so-called moral use. A two-class world is no more permissible than a two-class morality. Religion ought to be the first to raise its voice, in a united way, against the possession of nuclear weapons by any State.
Six Things People of Faith Can Do
1. KNOW THE FACTS. Learn the basics about nuclear weapons and their current status in the United States and in other countries. Keep abreast of current policy developments. Visit the most informative and useful websites, including the ones listed in the "National Resources" section. Stay current on legislation by joining the Faithful Security Network (www.faithfulsecurity.org).
2. PRAY. The nuclear weapons danger cannot be addressed through action alone. All activism must be accompanied by an inner journey that faces the existence of nuclear weapons, the possibility of annihilation, and the power of God in the face of these threats. Religious people can be a voice of hope for the future while they are performing the prophetic task of warning powerful institutions to change their course.
3. GET TOGETHER. Organize a small gathering in your home or religious community to strategize about how to raise awareness and take action. Consider showing a film that exposes the destructive power of nuclear weapons.
4. PASS THE MODEL RESOLUTION. Once you’ve learned more about the nuclear weapons danger, encourage your religious community to pass the model resolution urging the government to develop a plan for how to eliminate nuclear weapons (see page eight). Look for partners in your community that can help you spread the word. Reach out to other religious communities, especially those of different faiths. Consider partnering with grassroots groups that work for peace and disarmament. Submit the model resolution to your local city council or town meeting.
5. BUILD MOMENTUM. As you take action, keep letting others know about your efforts. Prepare an op-ed for your local newspaper. Meet with the editorial board of your local paper. Initiate conversations with your local religious leaders. Write an article for the regional newsletter in your faith community.
6. SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. Our elected officials are the ones who are making the daily decisions to fund new nuclear weapons or to follow our treaty obligations by reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. Build a relationship with your local and national elected officials by writing letters, making phone calls, and setting up in-state lobby visits.
"We must work on the total abolishment of nuclear weapons and gradually work up to total de-militarisation throughout the world."
- Dalai Lama in Millenial Message, December 21, 1999
Gandhi, it should be noted, was not only a keen supporter of substituting nonviolent resistance for war, but a sharp critic of the Bomb. In 1946, he remarked: "I regard the employment of the atom bomb for the wholesale destruction of men, women, and children as the most diabolical use of science." When he first learned of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Gandhi recalled, he said to himself: "Unless now the world adopts non-violence, it will spell certain suicide." In 1947, Gandhi argued that "he who invented the atom bomb has committed the gravest sin in the world of science," concluding once more: "The only weapon that can save the world is non-violence." The Bomb, he said, "will not be destroyed by counter-bombs." Indeed, "hatred can be overcome only by love."
To follow the line of Hindu faith, we should invoke the strength of Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver and pray for the powers of Shiva, the Destroyer to remain dormant. This in essence is the message of Hindu faith to the makers of Trident nuclear weapons system.
Thank you for listening.
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Vijay Mehta is an author and global activist for peace, development and human rights. His latest book, The Fortune Forum Summit: For a Sustainable Future examines the threats and challenges of crippling poverty, global warming, worldwide diseases and interrelated issues of international security and development.. His other books are Arms No More, and The United Nations and Its Future in the 21st Century. He is president of VM Centre for Peace and Chair of Arms Reduction Coalition. He is also co-chair of World Disarmament Campaign and trustee of Fortune Forum. He is also a member of the national CND Council.