An Interview to Mr. Jonathan Frerichs Disarmament Representative at the UN in Geneva Pax Christi I
1. What was your motivation for getting involved in nuclear disarmament activities?
I began to see more about the use of weapons, the impact of weapons, and I saw a lot about landmines, some things about cluster ammunitions, and then about the horrible story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I read books about it, and after this other experience with weapons it seemed quite possible to also be more concerned and to work on nuclear weapons.
I visited Hiroshima in August 2015 and attended the 70th anniversary ceremony. Anybody who knows about this issue knows what the bomb did: it created the temperature of the sun 600 meters above Hiroshima for a few seconds. We take the power of creation and turn it into power of destruction. For me, the atomic bomb is almost like an evil spirit, evil force, misusing the gifts of God. I felt this way when I attended the ceremony.
The idea is that at this time in history, humanity has to be careful about things that are possible but must not be done. Humanity now has much capacity to do things which we must not do, technological things, scientific things. But at the same time, we also maintain old morality which is shared by many of the world’s religions, the basic morality about the sanctity of life.
2. What kind of role do you think faith communities have played in the field of nuclear disarmament?
The preamble of the TPNW stresses the role of public conscience and the principles of humanity as a foundation for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It recognizes a list of important actors: the UN, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, other international and regional organizations, nongovernmental organizations, religious leaders, parliamentarians, academics and the hibakusha.
We religious people stood with others, and we stand with others. We practiced dedication, humility, commitment, hard work, tenacity, persistence like everybody else in this list. We stand with them and we appreciate everybody else in this group—which is now in the Treaty, which is very interesting.
Maybe the Treaty should mention more than “religious leaders”—to just say “religious people” or “people of faith”—because many have something to bring to the discussion. It’s a matter of relating some of humanity’s deepest values and deepest beliefs to a very real situation and a very real need for remedy and new directions. We bring those things to the discussion, and I think those other groups mentioned expect us to do so.
Some people feel like if you’re religious that’s your private business and your private concern, and you should leave it at home or leave it inside yourself—and that’s fine. But one’s faith probably should have a big effect on how you relate to people, how you speak to them, how you behave and what you are worried about. Those of us who have a concern for a better world, for politics, for history and obviously for human life and the chance for living in peace with security, we can then relate our faith to those things.
I think it’s important for all faiths, and the people of the different parts of each faith, to be open to the other faiths. Being open to the other expressions of their faith may not be easy, but it’s certainly possible. We have to keep working on cooperation between faith communities, like the joint statements we have done the last several years.