Statement by Religious Leaders

Vienna, 15 January 1983

This statement grew out of two days discussion 13-15 January in Vienna’s Intercontinental Hotel which involved the eleven religious leaders as well as six scientists, coming together at the invitation of Cardinal Koenig and Father Hesburgh. The six scientists, who were present to explain the document agreed to in Rome last September, were Prof. Andre Guinier, French Academy of Sciences; Dr. Howard Hiatt, Harvard School of Public Health; Dr. Spurgeon M. Meeny, National Academy of Science USA; Prof. Georgi K. Skryahin and Verguenij Verlkhov, USSR Academy of Sciences, and Prof. Victor B. Weisskopf, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Last September at a meeting called by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, presidents or their representatives of 36 academies of science from around the world issued a statement entitled, Declaration on Prevention of Nuclear War, in which they told us of the catastrophic consequences for humanity of a nuclear war. They warned us there is no real defense against the weapons now poised in the arsenals of nuclear powers. They said the issue is not one to be confronted only by reason. It is not simply a problem to be solved by factual analysis, but one which demands to be examined from the standpoint of faith and of moral values.

As persons from diverse religious traditions, we are impressed by the declaration of these eminent scientists; we speak as one to emphasize that humanity for the first time in history has the power to destroy itself. We believe that there is no cause that would morally justify the death and destruction caused by a nuclear conflagration. We deny the assertion that any side can win a nuclear war. As believers, our first duty is to praise our Creator and revere the life given us. Indeed, the longing for peace is deep in the breast of all peoples. But peace is both a gift of the Creator and a work of ours. Genuine peace cannot be based on mutually assured destruction; balanced nuclear terror mocks the message of love shared by all religions. Lasting peace can only be based upon global justice, respect for the dignity of each person, a conversion of mind and heart regarding war and peace, and, finally, the Creator’s call for reconciliation between estranged peoples.

To the statement of the scientists we add our own declaration of moral and religious conviction. We must begin now to reduce the number of nuclear weapons stockpiled and deployed. We must stop an arms race that produces ever more sophisticated agents of annihilation at enormous cost, diverting resources that could be used to feed, clothe, house and cure millions of people in need. We must end the international proliferation of nuclear weapons. We must repudiate as a means of settling disputes between nation-states a destructive force that outstrips our ability to calculate its effects. We believe that nations must not threaten the existence and well-being of their opponents but must engage in dialogue and collaborative efforts to improve social and cultural conditions all over the world. We must press continually toward the ultimate goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons, remembering that what human beings have made, they can unmake. Fatalism must give way to hope.

What faith impels us to say here in Vienna must be fortified by the hope that it is possible to build a world which will reflect the love of the Creator and respect for the life given us, a life certainly not destined to destroy itself. Because of the deterioration of the international political atmosphere and the great danger posed by the rapid developments in military technology, humanity today is in a critical period of its history. We join the scientists in their call for urgent action to achieve verifiable disarmament agreements leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Nothing less is at stake than the future of humanity, with its rich and variegated cultures and religious traditions.

Signers of Statement of Religious Leaders

Franz Cardinal Koenig
Archbishop of Vienna

Paulus Mar Gregorios
Metropolitan of Delhi, India (Orthodox)

Ahmed Zabara
Grand Mufti of United Yemen (Muslim)

Archbishop John R. Roach
President, National Council of Catholic Bishops

Professor and Rev. Keith Ward
University of London (Anglican)

Bishop James Armstrong
President, National Council of Churches of Christ (USA)

Bishop Anba Gregorios
Cairo (Coptic)

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh
President, University of Notre Dame

Archbishop Jean Jadot
Pro-President, Vatican Secretariat for Non-Christians

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir
Director, Office of International Affairs, United States Catholic Conference

Dr. Hashim Mandi
(signed as observer) Muslim World League, London

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