By Bob Allen
Baptists worldwide will discuss nuclear power as a human rights issue when the Baptist World Alliance observes World Human Rights Day the weekend of Dec. 7-8.
This year’s observance, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948, will focus on two areas. One is ongoing conflicts and human rights violations in Colombia, an area observed by a BWA delegation in June.
The other is a call for a “nuclear-free, arms-free world,” issued in response to the calamity caused by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, where concerns linger about problems with a nuclear reactor containing radiation equivalent of 14,000 atomic bombs triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The Japan Baptist Convention responded to the disaster with a 10-year theme beginning in 2011 called “working toward reconciliation.”
“As a result of this great disaster, cracks were formed between God and mankind, among mankind, and between mankind and creation,” Makoto Kato, executive secretary of Japan Baptist Convention, said in a statement. “We will continue to follow Christ, who feels the pain of those cracks as his own, prays intercessory prayers, and gives resurrected life, and we will continue to work toward reconciliation.”
Even before the accident at Fukushima, Japanese Baptists issued an official statement seeking a “Nuclear-Free, Arms-Free Society, with Deep Concerns for our Country’s Administration of Nuclear Power,” in 2008.
“In light of the call of God the Creator for us to live together with the created world, and as Christians, entrusted with the gospel of peace and reconciliation, we are deeply concerned with the current course of Japan’s nuclear power administration,” the statement said.
It called for a “nuclear-free, arms-free” world as soon as possible.
“We implore the government to shift its policy toward renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, toward the recovery of dignity for exposed workers, and toward the decommissioning of all nuclear reactors, not only in Japan, but in the world, using our accumulated skills in nuclear power, and to put all their efforts into managing the unfortunately emitted nuclear waste,” the statement said.
In addition to concerns about the safety of nuclear power, Japanese Baptists said having nuclear power plants makes it easier to produce nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear power plants were introduced into Japan by conservative politicians, and they have always made public statements to the effect that Japan should be free to have nuclear weapons at any time,” Michio Hamano, head of the Japan Baptist Convention’s Research and Training Institute for Missions, said in a theological address on the disaster.
“This would result in huge profits for the military industry,” he said. “However, we must ‘beat [our] swords into plowshares,’” quoting Isaiah 2:4.
Hamano confronted two “myths” about nuclear power, those of safety and necessity.
“It has been said that nuclear power plants are safe,” he said. “However, this is a lie, and it has once again been made clear that it is a myth that people were led to believe. We should have realized this with the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in America, and at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the old Soviet Union.”
Even without accidents, Hamano said nuclear plans are extremely dangerous for people who work there and those who live near buried nuclear waste.
Hamano said the other main argument used in support of nuclear power plants, that it’s impossible to generate enough power without them, is simply untrue.
“Solar power, geothermal power, wind power, wave power: there are many different ways to use renewable energy,” he said. “These are simply underdeveloped. Therefore, saying that ‘nuclear power plants are necessary’ is a mere myth.”
Hamano said nuclear energy is not only Japan’s problem. “There are 435 nuclear power plants in the world, and some of those are built in earthquake-prone areas,” he said. “We should reject nuclear energy as we stand on the side of the gospel.”
Hamano cited a statement by the World Council of Churches’ International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica saying, “The nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima has proved once again that we must no longer rely on nuclear power as a source of energy.”
“I would like my fellow Baptist friends as well to think about this,” he said.