Photo credit: Unsplash/ Mark Olsen

25th February 2022

Panel on Religion and Nuclear Nonproliferation at Tufts University Conference

  • Disarmament
  • Nuclear Abolition

On 11 February 2022, the Fletcher Initiative on Religion, Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University held its sixth annual conference, titled Religion, Science and Diplomacy. In her welcome remarks, Dean Rachel Kyte of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy emphasized that the aim of the initiative is to “provide a framework for interdisciplinary studies and practice of international affairs through the lens of religious literacy.”

Organized by the Religion, Law and Diplomacy student club, the online conference featured panel discussions by scholars, policy experts and religious practitioners on “Religion & Public Health: The Diplomacy of Healing;” “Faith in Climate Advocacy: Religion as a Resource for Climate Action;” and “Religion and Nuclear Nonproliferation.”

In the Religion and Nuclear Nonproliferation session, panelists discussed how religion, science and diplomacy intersect in addressing the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Dr. Eric Steinhart, Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University, moderated the discussion, which included the following panelists: Dr. Frank von Hippel, physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science & Global Security; Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Professor of Radiation Oncology and Radiology at Northwestern University; Linnet Wairimu Ng’ayu, Institutional Strengthening Advisor for the African Council of Religious Leaders—Religions for Peace; and Daniel Hall, Director of Public Affairs for SGI-USA.

Dr. von Hippel talked about the indiscriminate nature of nuclear weapons and shared examples of scientists and religious practitioners who have been active in protests against nuclear testing and weapons, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Linus Pauling.

Dr. Woloschak focused on the biological consequences of nuclear weapons, such as those used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as testing sites in the Marshall Islands. She noted that different faith traditions have much to agree on regarding secular matters, such as nuclear nonproliferation, the environment and climate change.

Drawing examples from her work in Africa, Ng’ayu reiterated that religion and science can work together and stressed the need for civil society-led discussions. She also noted that it is hard to maintain a high level of interest in countries facing many other challenges, especially those that are already part of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, because some citizens assume that their countries’ positions have already been made clear.

During his remarks on the panel, SGI-USA representative Daniel Hall shared that Soka Gakkai has contributed to the discourse on nuclear abolition through the annual peace proposals of Daisaku Ikeda, president of SGI. He gave examples of how these proposals have led to concrete initiatives and new ways of thinking in tackling this issue. Hall also stressed the importance of human rights education and added, “We need to make sure that civil society has the education and ability to influence decision makers to make sure that their interests are always being served in security strategies.”

Collectively, the Religion and Nuclear Nonproliferation panelists underscored the importance of interfaith dialogue and collaboration as well as cooperation between religious practitioners and the scientific community in mobilizing and educating the public on the destructive impacts of nuclear weapons and other technologically sophisticated weapons.