~ Submitted by the Peace and Justice Committee, First Parish in Bedford, UU.
Why will the bells at First Parish on the Bedford green be tolling come 8:15 on the morning of Friday, August 6th? And why will parishioners be standing in silent vigil in front of the church that morning?
Seventy-six years ago, at that moment, the first atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima Japan. Three days later, the same thing happened to Nagasaki.
The tolling of the bells and vigil will be held in memory of the quarter-million human beings who ultimately lost their lives in those attacks. They will also be tolling in the hope the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will keep that from ever happening again.
Truth be told, the world has escaped nuclear cataclysm mostly by good fortune — there have been many close calls, and nuclear arsenals stand on hair-trigger alert today even as they did during the height of the cold war. Yet our scientists and even most politicians acknowledge a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Incredibly, former Secretary of Defense William Perry believes we are closer to a nuclear war today than at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists stands at 100 seconds to midnight — the closest ever. Someday soon, our luck will run out.
The nuclear powers have for many years been bound by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to dismantle their weapons, but they have failed to do so. Frustrated by this lack of progress, in 2017, one hundred and twenty-two of the world’s non-nuclear nations approved the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Since then, eighty of them have officially signed it, and for 54 it has entered into force. Those numbers are increasing every day. Basically, for those that sign the treaty, nuclear weapons, and everything to do with them become illegal.
But the US has thus far not joined this treaty. We need to. In fact, we need to lead the way toward simultaneous and verifiable nuclear disarmament among the nuclear powers – friends and adversaries alike. We need to create alternative structures for common security. And we need to join with the rest of the world in adopting the TPNW to consign these horrible weapons to history. The Peace and Justice Committee at First Parish believes citizens can help bring that about. And that is why the bells are tolling in hope as well as memory.