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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June, 1977

INTERCHURCH PEACE COUNCIL (IKV), 'IKV MESSAGES 1976/1977 - NO. 4'

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    This information paper announces the IKV's plans for the 1977 Peace Week campaign.The campaign is centered around three points: to "help rid the world of nuclear weapons," not just the Netherlands; to make a concrete contribution by having the Netherlands nuclear weapons free in at least 10 years; and to mobilize from the bottom up, and making sure that "ordinary" people in churches, in the local branches of political parties, in the labor unions, etc., take a stance regarding nuclear weapons.
    "Interchurch Peace Council (IKV), 'IKV Messages 1976/1977 - No. 4'," June, 1977, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, International Institute for Social History, Amersterdam, Archief Interkerkelijk Vredesberaad. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122416
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IKV Messages 1976/77 – No. 4

Help rid the world of nuclear weapons….

Nuclear weapons are the most horrible weapons, with which the armies of NATO and the Warsaw Pact are equipped. They are, among other things, meant for retaliation. Entire countries and populations could be wiped out by them. Moreover, the use of nuclear weapons will have consequences for generations of people who still are to be born.

Nuclear weapons are in no proportion to the goal they serve, that is preventing war. That goal is not assured either; the risk of a nuclear war is not ruled out by threatening with nuclear weapons.

The existence of the balance of deterrence (with nuclear weapons) is connected with a continuous arms race, which devours all kinds of things and on which is spent twenty times as much as on aid to developing countries. Thirty years of negotiating about arms limitation and disarmament have not resulted in the abolition or decrease of nuclear weapons. Quite the contrary: a further proliferation of nuclear weapons across the world is going on.

Nuclear weapons have not given the world anything good. The essential conflicts between East and West have remained. They could not even be tackled creatively – because of these arms; they are frozen by them.

There is, finally, no possibility that the current international policy regarding armament and disarmament will offer a solution for the problem of the nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are an indictment of what we, humans, have made of this world.

In the 1977 Peace Week the IKV calls on everybody to make an extra effort to quickly and clearly decrease the role of nuclear weapons in the world. A new movement against nuclear armament must develop. A new alliance, that begins to take effect there where it has originated, in the Netherlands.

The first step the new alliance will seek to realize is the removal of nuclear weapons from Dutch soil. The IKV will formulate a manifesto against nuclear weapons, that will be put out into the churches and the country during the Peace Week. People who agree with the manifesto are also supposed to be ready to raise the matter of nuclear weapons at home, in the parish, in the local electoral associations etc. Moreover, in the coming elections their vote should be determined in the first place by the question whether a party intends to make the removal of nuclear weapons a part of its government program.

Signing the manifesto matters a lot. It creates an obligation.

The new alliance against nuclear weapons needs active members.

After the Peace Week, the campaign against nuclear weapons will continue. We still have got some time to win over a lot of people. Although, nobody knows how much.

Let’s start in the Netherlands

The issue of nuclear weapons at the local level

What could a group do?

Last year’s Peace Paper was full of anxiety about the armament. Everybody agreed about the alarming situation. But what do we do with this unease? The most important praise for the Peace Paper was that so many different opinions from so many angles got their turn. With that, the anxiety was passed on to a broader audience in the churches. At the same time, the critique was that this broad range of opinions, every one of them equally alarmed, did not offer any prospect of a way out. Actually, it was a tremendously pessimistic and demoralizing Peace Paper. Because, what do you do with your unease? And what really was the position of the Interchurch Peace Council itself?

The IKV has decided to continue its course of concentration on the hard security issues this year and to try to really make a step forwards this time, specifically concerning the most controversial issue: the nuclear weapons. The reactions so far of the local groups are positive. But two questions are asked time after time. First, in what way does this deviate from what we have tried in previous years? Second, in what way should a local group grapple with a preeminently international problem such as nuclear weapons?

  1. The difference with before

The difference with before is subtle. The purpose of the IKV has always been to help create, from the bottom up, the political space for changes in the direction of more peace and more justice. That was and is seen by the IKV as an obligation of the faith for Christians and churches. This year too it will be about the stretching of the political space, but this time from another assumption. Because the idea so far really was: the politicians are wise enough to desire progress, but they are dependent on public opinion. So, just work on the political climate and there will be change automatically. Make space and the politicians will use it. Regarding that, we have become more skeptical. We have placed too much trust in the elite indeed.

We will have to do it ourselves more, in a way. Of course, we cannot pick up these nuclear weapons ourselves, and place them across the border. For that, a political decision is needed. But the politicians are completely stuck, however much they worry about the armament. Simply digging up the ground for them, to create space, is not enough. The politicians need a firm push in the right direction. They should be able, so to speak, to say in those unbending NATO meetings: “Yes, we know that you will not see this as loyal to the alliance, but we have no choice: we are only representatives of the people and they absolutely want to get rid of the nuclear weapons in the Netherlands.”

In other words no longer the elite leads the way, the experts who can explain flawlessly why real change is impossible while calling it “realism,” but normal people, people who are fed up, even though they lack the intellectual training of diplomats and international specialists. That is why we must not be seduced this Peace Week to the umpteenth “intellectual shadow-boxing” game about pros and cons of the nuclear armament.

That discussion has been carried on now for years, over and over again. All arguments have been put forward a hundred times and nothing has changed. Concretely, this means: do not organize a panel discussion about the pros and cons of nuclear weapons in the coming Peace Week. Because undoubtedly it turns out again that everybody is deeply and sincerely alarmed, but that is not the issue anymore. The question is: how do we get rid of them? That is what the discussion should be about.

  1. How do you do that as a local group?

The intention is not, of course, to avoid the discussion with the opponents of “get rid of nuclear weapons.” Especially when we organize an evening about “how do we get rid of them?”, the room will be filled more with these opponents than at one of those noncommittal panel discussions. Silencing our opponents would be wrong. Furthermore, a lot of people will hesitate. After all, the path taken toward removal of nuclear weapons is not without risks either. The point is that people, church members etc. commit themselves to making a choice: get rid of nuclear weapons, or still continuing to trust in them. With that choice visitors of a Peace Week information evening must be faced. In fact it is the choice for everybody. The “no” against nuclear weapons of for example the Reformed Synod (1962) and of the IKV (1972) have to be converted into policy now. And it must be a policy that no longer solely relies on the international negotiations dragging on for years, which have never produced a single reduction of the number of nuclear weapons.

What could a group do? Obvious possibilities for action are the following, among others:

  • Organizing gatherings for a broader public about the factual nature of the weapons upon which we currently base our security (a list of suitable films will be ready on time).
  • Approaching church and parish councils etc., and ask them for a viewpoint: when the time comes these stances could be passed on to a synod or a bishop conference. The need to speak out itself already forms opinions. Information about official church declarations up to now will be available at the IKV.
  • Approaching local branches of political parties (with emphasis on local: the action must be bottom-up). The voter’s guide “The adjusted answer” could be useful here.

The IKV in any case will deliver:

  • appropriate material about nuclear armament.
  • possibilities for discussion training (probably after the Peace Week) for groups that actually have started a process and would like to prepare well for discussions with political parties, church councils, labor unions etc.

Furthermore, the IKV works on a manifesto. A number of theses express why we are against nuclear weapons. Help rid the world of nuclear weapons, beginning with the Netherlands. And in this way we hope to give this discussion new impulses, also elsewhere, in other countries.

  1. The group itself

The peace group itself must be well-aware of its position. That calls for a process of self-reflection – which may be less obvious. It is essential that a group starts with that. The four points of view that were stated in IKV Messages nr.3 (p 1–2) could perhaps be of help. Of course, you could also use these four subthemes to organize four evenings during the Peace Week. But in that case, consider these evenings as a build-up to new standpoints regarding nuclear weapons. Here are the four themes once more:

  • Alienation

The security system has become totally unrelated to the citizenry that must be protected by it. The alienation is everywhere. The military feels alienated too, not only from the citizens but also from the weapons of mass destruction which they have to learn to handle and of which is said right away: these weapons are so horrible, that they should never be used. Invite a military chaplain sometime, to tell you about the alienation within the army. We put a lot on each other, by having such a security system! IKV can give you some useful addresses.

  • Coercion

How much coercion exists, except in the international security system, in all kind of social relations, at all levels, right up to the level of family and personal relations? This subject is suitable more for reflection within the group itself than for a Peace Week evening. Hylke Tromp writes about this in the Peace Paper. You can ask IKV for a copy of an article by W. Bartels in the notebook “Secure Europe” (1972).

  • Consciousness of life

What effect has Hiroshima and the permanent willingness to cause more Hiroshimas – because that is the core of our current security system – on our consciousness of life and our need for continuity? Let somebody in your group read the book Living and dying: reflections on death and the continuity of life by Robert J . Lifton and E. Olson already during his vacation, and let him talk about it in the group.

  • Enemy

There has been a shift: first, the heavy weaponry made sense because there was an enemy; now, we have an enemy because otherwise this weaponry makes no sense? Invite a soldier or politician sometime, to explain how a people could be so thoroughly bad that it is justified to threaten it with total extinction day after day, without simultaneously being ready to accept ourselves the risks of a possible way out.

  1. Militarization

These four angles on nuclear weapons issues are also examples of militarization of society and of our thinking. For example: getting to think in stereotypes of the enemy, whether there is a real threat or not, is one form of militarization. If our consciousness of life has indeed (unintentionally!) adjusted to Hiroshima, then it has become militarized. Then it is quite remote from the faith in Gods fidelity, passed on from generation to generation. In the Peace Week material there is also attention to economic aspects of militarization and to the relationship between nuclear energy and militarization.

Interchurch Peace Council The Hague, June 1977

“Help rid the world of nuclear weapons.” That is the slogan of the 1977 Peace Week. A very special Peace Week, because with it a campaign is launched that actively, thus demonstrably wants to contribute to pushing back nuclear weapons: “Beginning with the Netherlands.”

Three points are at the center of the campaign:

  1. “Help rid the world of nuclear weapons” refers to all nuclear weapons all over the world. Removal of the nuclear weapons from the Netherlands wants to be a contribution on our part to a most desirable total dismantlement of these weapons. So, it is not our intention to plead for a ‘clean’ Netherlands that leaves the dirty laundry to others. On the contrary, the anti-nuclear weapons campaign aims to have a radiating effect toward other countries, both inside NATO and inside the Warsaw Pact. Potential church allies certainly do exist. The World Council of Churches and the Vatican have plainly declared themselves against weapons of mass destruction. But also the Evangelische Kirche in the GDR has recently protested against the militarization of its own society. We may expect – and we will do our best for it – that the campaign in the Netherlands will be understood and picked up in other countries.
  2. “Help rid the world of nuclear weapons” is directed at a precise goal. We hope that the Netherlands will be at least nuclear-free within about ten years. That is, very concretely, our first contribution to the visible reduction of nuclear weapons. Thus, it is not again merely about a broad discussion concerning the dangers of nuclear weapons. No, it takes more. An analysis of 25 years of anxiety and 25 years of international disarmament talks shows that, without additional actions, there is little or no prospect of real changes. With that, nothing is said at the expense of those talks, let alone of that anxiety. We only note: more is needed. That is why we start an antinuclear weapons campaign in the Netherlands – after a careful assessment of pros and cons (more about this in the coming Peace Paper).
  3. “Help rid the world of nuclear weapons” is a bottom-up action. The “ordinary” people in the churches, in the local branches of political parties, in the labor unions etc. are asked to take a stance regarding nuclear weapons. Subsequently they will have to declare their position, especially to their national representatives.

The antinuclear weapons campaign wants to help these “ordinary” people to get a handle again on a piece of security policy, to demand responsibility again for the way what is dear to us is being defended. From the bottom up it will have to be dictated that we no longer want to live under the immorality and doom of nuclear weapons.

It won’t be easy. Much of the criticism that will burst out, is predictable. So we can prepare for that. The balance of deterrence with nuclear weapons, people will say, does work, doesn’t it? For more than 30 years there has not been a war in Europe; the nuclear weapons have kept “the Russians” out. What will happen when the Netherlands removes the nuclear weapons? Will the (Russian) influence increase? Unilateral steps are out of the question: the international negotiations between East and West will be disrupted by it and it is not loyal to our NATO allies. Repercussions are bound to happen. What can a little country, let alone a few churches, bring about. Etcetera, etcetera.

We will be ridiculed by some. So be it. We will not run away from criticism. We have had to listen to all of it so many times already. But what the defenders of our current security system never tell us, is what the end of it will be like. We are offered no perspective at all. Or it would have to be the perspective that with an iron logic we are on our way to total destruction.

As early as 1962, the Reformed Church has declared that a Christian in conscience cannot take part in a war with nuclear weapons. How much more does that not hold for today.

It is the highest time to let the antinuclear weapons campaign begin.

Much strength and with kind regards,

Mient Jan Faber, IKV secretary.

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