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Nuclear Disarmament
Sisters take part in international event in New York

Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters Mary Pat Beatty, Carol Gilbert, Barbara Hansen, Ardeth Platte, Jean Reimer, Alice Wittenbach and Lucianne Siers gathered in Manhattan’s uptown during rush hour on the very hot afternoon of April 30 to begin three days of activities associated with the International Conference for a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World. The events of the weekend were initiated and planned by a collaborative effort of several national and international peace organizations in advance of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review International Planning Committee beginning May 3 at the United Nations.

Our first activity was the Annual Meeting of the Partnership for Global Justice, whose executive director is Lucianne Siers, OP. Meeting in a Manhattan church basement, so reminiscent of where many peace and justice activities have been initiated and sustained, we gathered to honor the Berrigan brothers, Daniel and posthumously, Philip, who are icons of the nonviolent peace and resistance movement.
Sisters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte introduced Dan, who was surrounded by his small residential Jesuit community. Partnership Board member, Amata Miller, IHM read the citation. Phil’s eldest daughter, Frieda, accepted her father’s award in the name of the family. The awards were followed by a luncheon of simple but delicious Cuban cuisine.

We then travelled to Riverside Church for the opening of the conference. More than 500 international and national participants were present, including peace demonstrators who had walked for days from places in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Upper New York State and Maine. Plenary sessions were interspersed with health, environment and abolition track workshops and panel discussions. The plenary sessions, including the Saturday evening speech by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, can be downloaded from the Riverside Church web site. There were many opportunities to meet old friends and to engage in discussions with people, young and old, from all around the world.

Sunday noon, May 2, we gathered at the Church Center of the UN for An Interfaith Convocation for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Secretary General of the National Council of Churches, called nuclear weapons "a crime against humanity" that must be removed from the face of the earth. Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Humanist, Indigenous, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh, Taoist, Unitrarina Universalist, Wiccna and Zorastrian communities were involved in gathering the participants and the readings and rituals of the convocation.

By 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, about 15,000 people from around the world including Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, among the 1,600 Japanese participants were gathered in Times Square only hours after the area had been closed following a failed attempt to explode a car bomb. Representatives of nation after nation spoke in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons and for a nuclear-free world. Then we marched to the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza at the UN for Peace and Music Festival.

Throughout the events, T-shirts, banners and signs abounded with quotes such as:

“It must never be repeated”
“No more NUKES!”
“Abolitions 2010”
“Tell Obama, In Our Lifetime!”
“The world still lives under a nuclear shadow”
“No more Hiroshimas. No more Nagasakis.”

By Lucianne Siers, OP, and Barbara Hansen, OP, co-promoters of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids Culture of Peace Committee