17 June 2024

Christian peacemakers against nuclear submarines

Armed nuclear-powered submarines will not make a more peaceful world, Christians say. Photo: iStock 

 
Maya Pilbrow 

26 April 2023

Religious groups have criticised the government’s nuclear submarine deal, saying it won’t lead us to God’s peaceful kingdom. 

Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt said the AUKUS trilateral defence agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom would not lead to a more peaceful world. 

He said the purpose of religion was to help people flourish and that the AUKUS agreement was not the way to build a peaceful society at home or abroad. 

The AUKUS agreement will see Australia acquire and build long-range armed nuclear-powered submarines to be deployed in the Indo-Pacific region. 

The agreement is estimated to cost 0.15 per cent of the GPD over the next 30 years, or between $268 and $368 billion. 

Dr Catt said he worried increased military spending on nuclear technology would come at the expense of social services. 

He said he was concerned about Australia’s role in a global context.  He said he feared the AUKUS agreement meant Australia would continue to exist in the shadow of the US. 

Read more: Australia must respect First Peoples’ by letting them speak

Dr Catt said involvement in previous US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had been unnecessary and destabilised both countries. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians are estimated to have been killed during the wars in both countries according to the Iraq Body Count Project and the nonpartisan Cost of War Project. 

He said he understood the need for defence, but the AUKUS agreement felt like another example of ideologically driven aggression from the US. 

He said doing God’s work and creating peace required challenging the way society operated. 

“From an Anglican framework, the fourth mark of mission is about transforming unjust structures,” he said. 

Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and member of the Uniting Church of Victoria Derek McDougall said there were many Christian perspectives on issues of national security and defence. 

Dr McDougall, whose research focuses on international relations and Australia’s role in the Asia-Pacific region, said there was a strong pacifist tradition within the Christian church and peacemaking and peacebuilding had broad support. 

He said his personal view was that AUKUS would not reduce tensions in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Dr McDougall said new long-range submarines that could operate off the coast of China were more likely to exacerbate conflict. 

“In terms of a general goal of human wellbeing, avoiding war should be a primary goal,” he said. 

Read more: Why Australia’s nuclear submarine deal raises questions for Christians

Dr McDougall said there were also many examples of Christians justifying war in certain circumstances, most notably the just war tradition. 

Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Force the Right Reverend Grant Dibden said God desired peace, but that force was sometimes necessary to protect the weak and needy. 

Bishop Dibden said nuclear-powered submarines would be a deterrent to war. 

He said AUKUS was about reducing the chances of conflict in the region and strong defences resulted in peace. 

Convener of the Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee Harold Wilkinson said his church believed in finding peaceful resolutions to conflict. 

He said Quakers believed there was God in everyone, and that pacifism was the result of that belief. 

Mr Wilkinson said the AUKUS agreement concerned him. 

“Strengthening our relationship with the United States in a military sense, we believe is definitely going down the wrong track,” he said. 

Mr Wilkinson said pacifism was often unpopular. 

“The number of people talking about peace is far less than the number of people talking about war,” he said. “There may not be a lot of people who will support us, but we believe it’s right.” 

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