Two national speakers to headline Global Nuclear Arms forum

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PROVIDENCE — With the United States poised to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years beefing up its nuclear arsenal, and tensions rising across the globe with each new crisis that crosses the horizon, there is an increased risk that such destructive weapons will be used once again.

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will welcome experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to offer an evening of education, discussion and reflection on nuclear deterrence and reducing the risks that such weapons pose.

“A New Global Nuclear Arms Race: Risks, Prevention and Moral Imperatives,” will be held in the diocese’s state-of-the-art McVinney Auditorium, 43 Dave Gavitt Way, near the Cathedral of SS. Peter & Paul at 7 p.m., and will examine the real and urgent risks posed by nuclear weapons and the dangers of our current alert policy, which leaves open the possibility of an accidental nuclear launch.

All are invited and encouraged to attend the free admission event, which is being co-sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, its Office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry and the Rhode Island State Council of Churches and organized by Pax Christi Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Anti-War Committee, Tuesday Interfaith Peace Group and American Friends Service Committee. Light refreshments will be provided.

The evening will offer strategies for getting involved and helping to influence critical policy decisions following the November elections.

Dr. Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), will speak about what President Obama — and the next president — should do to reduce the odds that nuclear weapons are used again.

She’ll discuss the administration’s plan to build a whole new generation of nuclear bombs, missiles and submarines, which will cost roughly $1 trillion in coming decades. She also will call on the president to remove land-based nuclear missiles from hair-trigger alert, which sets the stage for an accidental nuclear launch.

Dr. Gronlund said the topic is particularly germane to Rhode Island voters because the Ocean State serves not only as home to a facility that will help to manufacture the nuclear-armed submarines of the future, it also has powerful representation on military issues in the Congress.

“As a long-standing member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed has an important role to play in ensuring that the U.S. spends its defense dollars wisely,” Dr. Gronlund said.

“Current plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build a whole new generation of nuclear weapons are not just a waste of money but would undermine U.S. security.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass., uses rigorous, independent science to find solutions to the planet’s most pressing problems. They work with citizens across the nation, combining technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future.

Dr. Stephen Colecchi, the director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, will share his perspectives on nuclear weapons from Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church, and how nuclear proliferation shifts resources from where they can do the most good.

“The Catholic Church at its highest levels has supported nuclear disarmament as a moral imperative for decades,” Dr. Colecchi said.

“Saint John XXII called for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons in 1963. Pope Benedict reminded us that in a nuclear war there would be ‘no victors, only victims.’ And Pope Francis has asserted that ‘spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations.’”

Pax Christi Rhode Island, part of the international global Catholic peace movement which works to establish peace, respect for human rights and promote justice and reconciliation, has taken a lead in organizing the event.

Madeline Labriola, a member of Pax Christi Rhode Island who also serves as a representative of Pax Christi International to the United Nations in New York, says that it is vitally important for people from all faiths to come together in this forum to become better informed about the nuclear issue, which she deems “a clear and present danger.”

“We can’t ever say that we are going to strike first,” Labriola said, noting that currently the U.S., Russia, China and six other nations possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, each more powerful than those the U.S. dropped on Japan to end World War II.

“Most people don’t realize the dangers of nuclear weapons. As Catholics who follow the peaceful Jesus we must never condone the use or the stockpiling of such weapons of mass destruction.”

There is also the secondary issue of diverting trillions of dollars of vital financial resources from where they could do the most good to paying for new nuclear weapons systems.

“The money is taken from the poor,” Labriola said.

Pat Fontes, a member of Pax Christi Rhode Island, said that those in attendance at the event will have the opportunity to learn from and interact with two of the preeminent speakers in the country on the impact of nuclear weapons.

“It’s a very impressive lineup,” she said.

For more information, contact Pat Fontes at 401-516-7678 or by email at patfontes@netscape.com.