The Nuclear Freeze—Can It Bring Peace and Security?
Like an ocean wave swelling and gaining momentum, the nuclear weapons freeze movement has grown in size and intensity, attracting millions. Sweeping Europe, Japan and the United States, its efforts have already swayed politics and have even altered national postures toward war. This movement is unusual in several ways.
Serious Bible students may wonder if it will have any part in fulfilling the prophetic Biblical words of “Peace and security!” Or, will it ebb away like a passing fad?—1 Thessalonians 5:3.
What Is It?
The nuclear freeze movement wants to put a halt, or freeze, on the production, testing and deployment of all nuclear weapons. It is calling for all nuclear weapons arsenals to be frozen at their present levels. It is not just a protest movement. One prominent spokesman for the movement said that their first objective “is to freeze the weapons so they won’t burn the people.”
The ripples from the nuclear freeze movement were first noticed in Western Europe in 1979. A few concerned citizens in Holland put pressure on the Dutch government to prohibit nuclear missiles on their land. Then support came from Norway and Denmark not even to entertain the idea of having nuclear missiles in their countries. In the spring of 1980 wavelets appeared as Britain was reawakened to the nuclear missile issue, and by autumn 80,000 demonstrators were drawn to Trafalgar Square.
The movement became known as END (European Nuclear Disarmament) and has grown into a wave with strong END committees in France, West Germany, Greece, Finland and Portugal, along with active supporting movements in most other European countries. END calls for a nuclear free zone, free of all nuclear weapons from Poland to Portugal. This wave reached into Eastern Europe with clandestine group discussions. By the end of 1981 the swell of support at nuclear freeze demonstrations in Western Europe totaled up like this:
● West Germany—100,000 at Hamburg, June 1981.
● Sicily—30,000 at Comiso, October 1981.
● France—40,000 at Paris, October 1981.
● England—175,000 at London, October 1981.
● Italy—200,000 at Rome, October 1981.
● West Germany—300,000 at Bonn, October 1981.
● Netherlands—400,000 at Amsterdam, November 1981.
● Spain—400,000 at Madrid, November 1981.
In the United States the seeds of the nuclear freeze proposal were planted in 1979 and emerged with citizen groups sensitizing Americans to the danger and horror of nuclear war by 1980. The support grew and radiated to other countries along with its demonstrations, such as:
● U.S.A.—100,000 at 150 university campuses, November 1981.
● East Germany—6,000 at Dresden, February 1982.
● Japan—200,000 at three Tokyo rallies, May 1982.
● U.S.A.—700,000 at New York City, June 1982.
On June 12, while the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament was in progress in New York, 700,000 nuclear freeze proponents paraded before UN headquarters, culminating a week of demonstrations. During that same week in Europe almost one million people demonstrated in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Bonn, Copenhagen, Dublin, London, Madrid and Paris.
Who Backs It?
The nuclear freeze movement’s rapid growth and mobilization of supporters across a wide section of the globe mark the movement as unusual. But who are its supporters?
A broad range of citizens, not just the youth, has billowed up as the force behind the nuclear freeze movement. Supporters come from all walks of life: housewives, factory workers, lawyers, educators, business people, entertainers, medical professionals, clergymen, scientists and even military men of all rank.
The main backing for this diverse wave of humanity comes from three segments of society—normally considered conservative, stable—the scientific, the medical and especially the religious communities. U.S. News & World Report says: “The key force behind the American antiwar crusade consists of leaders of most of the nation’s churches.” The same is said about Europe.
The Eastern bloc of nations actively support the nuclear freeze movement not only in their own country but also in others. Such open participation is uncommon. Some of the European demonstrations were sponsored by communist groups, and one sponsor of the June 12, 1982, New York City rally was the Communist Party, U.S.A.
The nuclear freeze movement’s involvement of such a wide variety of people from numerous divergent backgrounds, occupations and political views is another thing that stamps this campaign as unusual. Why have millions joined so quickly?
Why So Popular?
People are scared, actually terrified. They have “nuclearphobia”—fear of nuclear war. Suddenly, the reality and the possible totality of nuclear destruction has hit them like a two-fisted punch.
Recent events have heightened their fears. The international ground rules that have kept things stable among nuclear powers for the last 25 years are now being challenged. Previously a “balance of terror” has kept the threat of nuclear war in check. Each nation knew that an attack on one would result in a retaliatory strike at the other, resulting in the complete destruction of both nations—if not all nations.
This viewpoint has changed. Here is what alarms people:
● Starting in the summer of 1980, the approval by world leaders of long-range plans to fight a limited nuclear war began surfacing. Open talk about fighting, surviving and even winning a limited or protracted nuclear war is heard from the mouths of superpower representatives.
● Advancements in technology enable nuclear missiles to become almost pinpointed in their accuracy. This accuracy gives missiles the capability of destroying almost all enemy land-based missiles before they can be fired in retaliation, and it therefore adds credibility to the talk of fighting and winning a limited nuclear war.
● Ratification of 1979 SALT II (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) limiting nuclear weapons failed.
● Military budgets are showing marked increases, while many countries suffer from deep economic recession.
● Scientists, physicians and clerics are zealously increasing public awareness of the devastation a nuclear attack would bring to humans, the environment and future generations.
Once the nuclear freeze movement raises the consciousness of people to the deadly effects of nuclear war, then what is its goal?
What Does It Hope to Do?
The nuclear freeze movement hopes not only to sway the majority of people in their favor but also actually to change current political policies toward nuclear arms. The New York Times offers this comment about the movement’s goal: “They believe that the key question is whether they can convert the rapidly growing public concern about the nuclear arms race into votes in Congress.”
Have they succeeded? Political pressure from nuclear freeze supporters influenced European governments to rethink their nuclear weapons policy. The then Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany warned against ignoring the movement by saying its supporters “are sending clear signals to political leaders.”
In the United States elected representatives feel the pressure. For example, last August a resolution calling for an immediate freeze in the American and Soviet nuclear arsenals, presented to the House of Representatives, lost in a close vote of 204 to 202. Nonetheless, it painted a vivid picture of the strength this issue has gained in a short period of time.
Russia, too, realizes the power behind this movement. For the first time in memory, Russia allowed outsiders to march for peace. A group of 300 demonstrators from Scandinavia led a half-mile-long antinuclear march, called Peace March ’82, through the heart of Moscow last July under the banner of “No to nuclear weapons in the whole world.”
Will this movement force governmental leaders to take action toward securing some kind of world peace? Or will the cry be heard only from the mouth of the masses? Will government exert its power to stifle that cry by silencing one of the main instigators of the nuclear freeze—the clergy? Last August U.S. President Ronald Reagan addressed an international group of high-ranking members of the Catholic hierarchy at the centennial convention of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and touched on this very matter. He appealed to Roman Catholics to reject the nuclear freeze.
In connection with such efforts to establish world peace, the apostle Paul wrote at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3: “Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.” When Jehovah God himself executes judgment on corrupt governments, his action will be swift and decisive. But will the nuclear freeze movement be a stepping-stone toward the nations’ crying “Peace and security!”? We shall see.
However, this fact is self-evident: Fear is the dominant emotion in the nuclear freeze movement. Why is there such global fear today?
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The Nuclear Freeze—Who Support It?
● Pugwash Council, August 1981, in Canada, attended by scientists from 40 countries, concluded:
“An immediate freeze of the current nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union is recommended.”—The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
● During May 1982 International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, with members in 19 countries, met for its second annual convention in England. Its representative stated:
“No matter what our country or our politics, we were in total agreement that a nuclear war will be the final epidemic . . . Doctors have wanted to do something about the insanity of building up huge nuclear armaments, but there has been no effective force comparable to the scope of the problem. Now such a force is emerging. If it gains the active participation of most doctors of the world, it could become unstoppable.”—Medical World News.
● Roman Catholic Involvement:
Papal message on nuclear disarmament, United Nations, June 1982, states: “The teaching of the Catholic Church is clear and consistent in this area. It has deplored the arms race; it has called for the mutual, progressive and verifiable reduction of armaments.”—United Nations General Assembly Verbatim Record.
At the “Interfaith Witness to Stop the Nuclear Arms Race” held in the city of Philadelphia, U.S.A., June 1982, Cardinal Krol “called on world governments ‘to dismantle existing nuclear weapons.’”—The New York Times.
● Protestant Involvement:
The West German Protestant church group Arbeitsgemeinschaft Dienst für Frieden, AGDF (Action Group in the Service for Peace), was instrumental in organizing the 1981 Bonn, Germany, rally against nuclear weapons.—The Christian Century.
The British Council of Churches has given unanimous approval to a motion supporting the World Disarmament Campaign since 1980.—World Disarmament Campaign letter.
The national Council of Churches, American Baptist Churches, United Church of Christ and Reformed Church in America were supporters of the June 1982 nuclear freeze rally held in New York City.—June 12 Rally Committee brochure.
● Orthodox Church Involvement:
The Romanian Orthodox Church hosted religious representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths from 16 countries: “Appeal for Disarmament and Peace” convention in Bucharest during 1981. Its purpose: “We will urge them [church members] to participate more actively in the service of peace and in the hope of a peaceful future for mankind. . . . with the purpose of preventing and eliminating once and for ever the danger of a nuclear war.”—Romanian Orthodox Church News, Quarterly Bulletin.
During May 1982 the Russian Orthodox Church sponsored the “World Conference of Religious Workers for Saving the Sacred Gift of Life From Nuclear Catastrophe” and invited 600 distinguished clergymen from around the world.—Time magazine.
● Buddhist Involvement:
In Japan “both Buddhists and Christians are organizing many other sorts of movements [against nuclear weapons].”—Asahi Evening News.
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What would happen if a one-megaton nuclear bomb exploded at 6,000 feet? Zone 1—Total destruction; no survivors. Zone 2—All structures flattened; 50% of population killed. Zone 3—Fire storm; 25% of population killed. Zone 4—Buildings damaged; 10% of population killed
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The world spends a million U.S. dollars a minute on the arms race. If this money were spent on housing, more than 18,230 new houses a day could be built. (Based on U.S. average of $79,000 apiece)
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Will the nuclear freeze sway politicians?