Weapons of war are now off the list of investment possibilities for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (GC) after a recent GC Corporation Board meeting. The board met to review and refine current GC investment practices.1
Already off the list for investment were industries involved in alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, meat products and caffeinated beverages.
From this meeting, the GC Investment Committee has been instructed to check all present and potential investments to divest from and exclude companies who gain any revenue from the manufacture and sale of weapons, combat vehicles, munitions, warfare systems, cluster munitions, land mines or nuclear weapons.
Let’s applaud this decision. It will help make a difference. However, it seems puzzling the Church had made investment decisions against caffeine products but not nuclear armament.
Having made that point, I’m certain no-one at the GC said, “Why don’t we invest in Boeing because it’s doing good business with its maintenance program for 500 or so Minutemen III nuclear ballistic missiles.”2
This highlights an issue. Boeing isn’t well known for this part of its business. There are a myriad of businesses with little known links to the weapons industry. This decision by the GC signals that these links will be more thoroughly checked in the future.
Let’s applaud the decision.
Living in the nuclear age
In 1974, President Richard Nixon said, “I can go back into my office and pick up the telephone and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” That’s a reality we may not want to know with the current chest beating by North Korean, Russian and US leaders.3
It’s estimated that if the US early warning system showed the country under attack by nuclear missiles, the president would have time for only a 30-second briefing and between three and 12 minutes to make up his or her mind whether to push the launch button in response.
That time frame becomes scary when there have already been five false alarms of nuclear missile attacks by the US or Russia.
Estimates are that, if only 100 nuclear weapons (of the 14,000 stockpiled4) are used in a war, about 2 billion people will die, the vast majority of them from starvation.
We can make a difference
ICAN has made a difference. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was established by a group of Australians in 2007. Now an international group, it won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2017.
ICAN uses a unique approach to the problem. Tim Wright, the Asia-Pacific director, explains, “Possessing the bomb is not the norm. Almost every nation in the world has made a legal undertaking never to acquire nuclear weapons.”
ICAN is building on the frustration these nations have with nuclear countries that have failed to fulfil decades-old disarmament commitments. Besides, “Why would one expect the nuclear-armed states to lead us to a nuclear-free world?”
The United States did turn up in Vienna to a conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in 2014 after boycotting two previous conferences. The US ambassador stated they will oppose moves to ban nuclear weapons.
Speaking after a series of testimonies of survivors from Japan and the Marshall Islands (where the US tested nuclear weapons), Wright says, “[The ambassador] came across as callous, almost comically out of touch, a pariah in the room—not the mythical ‘responsible’ nuclear power.”
It is having an impact.
Following the money
It’s important that the Church has made this investment decision. First, we have a moral responsibility not to harm people. Second, cutting off investment funds to companies that build weaponry does have an impact.
For instance, Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest global weapons-producing companies, stopped making cluster munitions under investor pressure. They sent out a letter saying they hoped their action would remove them from the prohibited list some investment firms had set up.
In France, India, the United Kingdom and the United States the majority of the funding for nuclear weapons comes from the government. However, companies that create these weapons can’t make a profit without investment from the private sector.
The Don’t Bank on the Bomb website (associated with ICAN) is openly “faming” and “shaming” companies according to their support or not of nuclear arms. This is proving embarrassing to those shamed, with several asking how they can get on the fame list.
So let’s applaud the GC’s recent investment decision because it will help send a message to war manufacturers. And let’s urge all church members and entities around the world who have investments to do the same.
For God’s sake—and humanity’s.
Bruce Manners is an author and retired pastor based in Lilydale, Victoria.
- Information about weaponry, nuclear weapons and comments about them are from Helen Caldicott (ed), Sleepwalking to Armageddon, The New Press, New York, 2017.