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Rome, November 10-11, 2017

Meeting in the Vatican: "Perspectives for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons"

"In Latin America we have the nuclear weapons prohibition treaties, but we are full of US bases that claim to defend democracy but defend their interests," he added, in a speech in which he called "to be rebels in the face of injustice."

In the New Classroom of the Synod he was heard by ten other Nobel Peace Prize winners - among them the Egyptian Mohamed El Baradei and Beatriz Fhin, executive director of ICAN, the International Campaign that works to prohibit nuclear weapons, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, representatives of the United Nations, NATO, Russia, the United States, South Korea, Iran, diplomats and experts in the field of arms, organizations working on the issue and representatives of various episcopal conferences. All of them were received in audience by Pope Francis, who in a speech condemned not only the nuclear threat, but also the possession of nuclear weapons, something considered an important change of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

In his speech, Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1980, without half measures, assured that if there is no nuclear disarmament it is because "there is no political will."

He also recalled that John XXIII, in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, of 1963, made an appeal to the conscience of the people to stop the arms race and to ban atomic weapons. And he stressed that since then not only was the nuclear arsenal not reduced, but it was increased. "There are 14,000 thousand nuclear weapons in the hands of the United States and Russia, there are nuclear weapons in Italy, Israel, France, China, where is the world going with this?" he asked. "We have not reduced the nuclear arsenal, but poverty, hunger has increased, hunger is a crime," he said.

He also said that he traveled to Iraq with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, also present at the meeting, where he saw the "horror" of the war. In this regard, he denounced that "nobody speaks of the impoverished uranium bombs that leave sequels in generations, of contaminated water, of genetic malformations, of the increasingly degrading situation of nature and the plundering suffered by the people of Iraq."

In spite of everything, a "hopeful pessimist" showed himself, convinced that there is a possibility of change. "History is written by the people and that is where we have to work, the people have to stand, the churches, the social organizations, we have to raise our voices to say enough, I do not want generations of slaves. Dominate the great powers that do not want to disarm because they are dominating the world," he said.

Finally, he called for a revitalization of the United Nations organization. "Today it is formed by more than 193 states, with five powers that put conditions on the Security Council: this is immoral and unfair, we have to raise our voices to point out these things," he concluded, reaping applause in the audience.

Pérez Esquivel praised the Pope's call to talk about disarmament and to provoke reflections on the issue and regretted that in Argentina some do not understand the global leadership that Jorge Bergoglio has acquired.

Oscar Litwin,
Vicepresidente Regional Latinoamericano

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