.- The signing of the nuclear reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia is "news that the World Council of Churches has awaited for a long time," according to the secretary general of the international ecumenical organization. While he praised this "modest" step, he prayed that governments will "have the courage and the will to follow-up this important development."
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which was signed by President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, President Dmitry Medvedev, yesterday in Prague, includes measures that will reduce the "deployed strategic warhead limit" by 30 percent from previously established levels.
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches (WCC), celebrated the decision on Thursday, calling it "a sign of the leadership needed for establishing a sustainable and just peace in the world."
Reflecting on the establishment of what he deemed as only "modest cuts" from the "two most heavily armed nations in the world," Rev. Tveit said that the most promising result of the treaty is the two nations' agreement to increase their openness regarding their respective nuclear arsenals.
"If the world’s most powerful states practice new levels of nuclear transparency and verification, as we hope they will," he stated, "they will be able to bring new leadership and hope to bear on a range of nuclear arms problems."
The reverend expressed his own hope that the resulting "new confidence" could bring about further, deeper cuts in the future.
He added that now more than ever, on the verge of next month's U.N. meeting to review the "the most important disarmament agreement of all," the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "signs of new openness are especially welcome."
Rev. Tveit concluded his statement, saying "We pray for governments to have the courage and the will to follow-up this important development."
The WCC, a fellowship of nearly 350 Christian Churches, has been vocal in its support of disarmament measures, releasing a statement last September which called current times "a season of hope" in the ever more realistic possibility of a nuclear weapon-free world.