From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC Central Committee Marches

Date 04 May 1996 20:51:39


95346             WCC Central Committee Marches 
                to Protest French Nuclear Testing 
                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
GENEVA--Members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee 
broke from their business Sept. 22 to stage a march to the nearby Place de 
Nations of the United Nations to protest French nuclear weapons testing in 
the South Pacific. 
     Central Committee meeting observers and staff members of the 
Ecumenical Center in Geneva who joined the 158 Central Committee members 
swelled the crowd to nearly 300 participants.  The decision to march was 
made Sept. 21 after the Central Committee approved a resolution condemning 
France and the People's Republic of China for their resumption of nuclear 
     The group gathered in the lobby of the Ecumenical Center, home of the 
WCC, where they sang hymns and distributed WCC and antinuclear weapons 
banners.  The march to the U.N. was led by His Holiness Aram I, moderator 
of the Central Committee and head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in 
Lebanon; WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser; the eight presidents of the 
WCC; and leaders of South Pacific member churches of the WCC. 
     When the silent march reached the Place de Nations, the protesters 
were led in prayer by Eunice Santana, a minister of the Puerto Rico 
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and one of the WCC presidents. 
     Meanwhile, a small WCC delegation delivered a letter of protest to 
Vladimir Petrovsky, director general of the Office of the United Nations in 
Geneva.  Raiser later reported that the delegation was "warmly received and 
appreciated" by Petrovsky. 
     The text of the letter, signed by Aram I: 
     "I have the honor to convey the sincere greetings of the Central 
Committee of the World Council of Churches, currently in session in Geneva. 
     "During this session, we have turned our attention to the issue of 
nuclear testing, and have adopted the statement which I attach for your 
     "We have also expressed deep appreciation of the significant 
accomplishments of the United Nations in the field of disarmament, 
welcoming in particular its leadership in achieving an indefinite extension 
of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, and agreement of the 
nuclear weapons states to conclude a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. 
     "We come to you today to express particular concern about the 
continuation of nuclear tests on Moruroa Atoll by the Government of France. 
Through your good offices, we urge the Secretary General of the United 
Nations to consider urgently the following actions: 
     1.  The sending of an independent commission to assess the impact on 
the public health and well-being of the people of French Polynesia as a 
result of continuing nuclear tests. 
     2.  The formation of a group of experts to carry out an independent 
scientific assessment of the long-term effects of decades of nuclear 
testing in French Polynesia in light of the declaration of the 
 Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro. 
     3.  The naming of an independent expert to study the violations by the 
Government of France of the human rights of the people of the Pacific, and 
especially of French Polynesia, in view of the recognition of the Human 
Rights Committee that research, testing, manufacture and possession of 
nuclear weapons are among the grave threats to the right to life. 
     4.  The issuance of a reminder to the Government of France of its 
obligations under the convention on the Rights of the Child, and urging 
that government to desist from any activity, including nuclear testing, 
which may endanger the provision of nutritious foods and drinking water 
free of all forms of pollution to the children of the Pacific and of French 
Polynesia in particular. 
     5.  The exercise of the good offices of the Secretary General to draw 
to the attention of the Government of France its moral obligation, 
especially in view of the express will of the people of French Polynesia 
and the wider Pacific region and in response to appeals from every part of 
the world, to reverse the decision of President Chirac, and to desist from 
any further nuclear tests. 
     "We remain convinced that the greatness of France, the cradle of 
modern human rights thinking and practice, will not be found in nuclear 
deterrence, but through a return to the universal human values upon which 
modern France is built, and in providing wise moral leadership in a world 
in desperate need of peace." 

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  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
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