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Faith community gathers to protest nuclear testing


The Rev. Neal Christie, actor Martin Sheen, Hi'ilani Waiwaiole and JoAnn Fukumoto participate in a nonviolent protest against nuclear weapons testing. A UMNS photo courtesy of California-Nevada Annual Conference.

By JoAnn Fukumoto*

April 11, 2007 |  MERCURY, Nev. (UMNS)

Against the backdrop of the Nevada Test Site, a United Methodist leader asked people of faith to urge the U.S. Congress to eliminate government funding for nuclear warhead replacements in the fiscal 2008 budget.

"As President Bush twists the arms of Iran and North Korea to halt developing their own nuclear weapons against an undefined future threat, it is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. to go forward with so-called reliable replacement warheads and unacceptable as a policy to go forward with the construction of the Consolidated Plutonium Center," said the Rev. Neal Christie, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the denomination's social action agency.


A roadway sign stands near the Nevada Test Site, the most bombed site on the planet.  A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.

Christie spoke during the Lenten Desert Experience on Palm Sunday, April 1, where hundreds gathered in a nonviolent witness against nuclear weapons testing.

The Nevada Test Site is the most bombed site on the planet. More than 1,000 nuclear weapons have exploded here on land taken from the Western Shoshone Native American Nation, which held its ecosystems sacred.

Christie said U.S. funding requests for replacement warheads could be included in the military authorization bill, the military appropriations bill and the energy and water appropriations bill.

"Vast sums have already been wasted on a war of deception in Iraq, leading to the slaughter of tens, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis," Christie said. "We cannot afford to let Congress turn its attention away from the reduction of existing stockpiles which can still unleash 50,000 times the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."

Mobilizing people of faith

Sponsored by the Nevada Desert Experience, the gathering was part of the group's campaign to stop nuclear weapons testing through prayer, education and dialogue.

The organization mobilizes people of faith to work toward nuclear abolition and nonviolent social change. Immediate goals include ending sub-critical tests and other war-making preparations at the Nevada Test Site and preventing the return of full-scale nuclear testing.
Since the Franciscan Community gave birth to the Nevada Desert Experience in 1982, the group has hosted several annual ecumenical and interfaith events. The Lenten Desert Experience is one of three offered to the faith community, peace organizations and others sharing common values and goals.
The United Methodist Church supports the abolition of nuclear weapons and initiatives in every part of the world that move toward the goal of disarmament.

"We cannot afford to let Congress turn its attention away from the reduction of existing stockpiles which can still unleash 50,000 times the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."
-The Rev. Neal Christie
Christie told the gathering that the United Methodist Council of Bishops challenged the political will of the ecumenical community more than 20 years ago by declaring that "creation is under attack" in a position paper on nuclear weapons and nuclear war called "In Defense of Creation."
The bishops went on to say, "Air and water, trees and fruit and flowers, birds and fish and cattle, all children and youth, women and men live under the darkening shadows of threatening nuclear winter. It is an assault not only to the human family but to planet earth itself, even while the arms race cruelly destroys millions of lives in conventional war, repressive violence and massive poverty."        

Christie reported that a coalition of 74 national Jewish, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic organizations filed formal opposition in February to the Bush administration's plans to spend more than $150 billion for a new nuclear weapons complex dubbed Complex 2030. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society was among religious organizations signing a "Religious Statement Opposing Complex 2030."

He concluded his message with a quote from the prophet Isaiah.

"Justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness abide in the fruitful field, and the effect of righteousness will be peace. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places" (Isaiah 32:16).

*Fukumoto is Peace with Justice Educator of the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference and a board member of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the Nevada Desert Experience.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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