Quakers view weapons of mass destruction to be immoral and illegal. Quakers work with other organisations, policy-makers and civil society to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

"We believe that no one has the right to use [nuclear] weapons in his defence or to ask another person to use them on his behalf. To rely on the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent is faithless; to use them is a sin." – Meeting for Sufferings, 1955, Quaker faith & practice 24.41



    Banning nuclear weapons: where we are today

    Download a list of 10 ways to support the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

    The United Nations nuclear ban treaty


    “This is an imperfect treaty, but it is hugely significant as a step towards stigmatising and de-legitimising these weapons. And it will certainly go down in history as one of the most important nuclear disarmament treaties of all time." – Timmon Wallis, then Peace and Disarmament Programme Manager, 2017


    In 2017, negotiations at the United Nations resulted in the adoption of a treaty banning nuclear weapons. After months of talks, 140 member nations passed the treaty, meaning that 73% of 192 member nations support the ban. By September 2017, 53 nations had signed the treaty into force. Over the next five years the number of nations ratifying or acceding to the treaty rose to 68.

    The development, testing, production, financing, transferring, stockpiling, use and threat of use of any nuclear weapon is now prohibited in the participating countries. This is the biggest step forward for nuclear disarmament campaigners in decades.

    Quakers in Britain joined more than 440 non-governmental organisations in supporting the treaty, including the World Council of Churches. The delegate for Quakers in Britain, Timmon Wallis, represented a coalition of faith communities and helped frame how nuclear disarmament can be achieved over the coming months and years.

    Having non-violently opposed Britain's nuclear weaponry for over 60 years through public protest, direct action and political advocacy, Quakers are well known for their position on disarmament and we continue to push for changes in the UK government's approach to the issue.

    The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear (ICAN) made this short animation of Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow's passionate call to action on the day that the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted.

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    The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

    Sadly, in other areas, the world is moving backwards when it comes to reigning in nuclear weapons. In 2019, for example, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This was an agreement signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 to limit the sorts of weapons systems the two countries could develop and hold. In particular, it referred to short and intermediate range land-based cruise and ballistic missiles, and launchers capable of using nuclear missiles.

    The reason given for the decision by then U.S. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark Esper was that it was "a direct result of Russia's sustained and repeated violations of the treaty over many years and multiple presidential administrations".

    The previous year, when then US President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out from the treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted strongly. Although he stated that Russia would never strike first with a nuclear missile, he declared, "An aggressor should know that vengeance is inevitable, that he will be annihilated, and we would be the victims of the aggression. We will go to heaven as martyrs, and they will just drop dead. They will not even have time to repent for this."

    Lobby the UK government to back the nuclear ban

    The UK government, together with the US and most other NATO states, chose to boycott the 2017 nuclear ban negotiations despite long-standing UK government policy to support nuclear disarmament 'through a multilateral process'. Yet the widespread adoption of the UN treaty means there is cause for hope in encouraging real political engagement with the topic of nuclear disarmament. Quakers can help build political will around the treaty in the UK.

    Take action

    1. Ask your MP or MSP to sign the ICAN Parlimentary Pledge (offsite link).
    2. If you need some inspiration, take a look at ICAN's sample email.
    3. Once you have written to your MP or MSP, and if you hear back from them, please let us know via politics@quaker.org.uk.

    Quakers say: rethink Trident

    Despite a good deal of protest, in 2016 parliament voted to begin the process of upgrading the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system. It's estimated that Trident replacement will cost the UK at least £205 billion. This fleet of nuclear missile-carrying Dreadnought submarines is due to enter service in 2028, replacing the current fleet which should be entirely withdrawn by 2032. The new fleet will remain operational well into the second half of this century. Quakers and millions of others in Britain continue to oppose Trident as unnecessary, unaffordable and utterly at odds with our commitment to peace, which allows no role for weapons of mass destruction.

    How did we get here?

    Britain detonated its first atomic bomb in 1952, and has retained nuclear weapons ever since. In 1968, Britain signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), committing to disarm in 'good faith' and 'at an early date'.

    The current Trident nuclear missile programme is expected to remain operational until the early 2030s, by which time the government expects a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines to take their place.

    Meanwhile the Trident missiles themselves are being upgraded by the US and these will gradually replace the existing missiles. The nuclear warheads on top of the missiles are produced at Aldermaston, where there is a multi-billion pound programme already underway to design and develop a new set of warheads for the new submarines.

    Working in partnership

    Quakers in Britain are working alongside the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and others to help build the movement that will scrap Trident. Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament produces various peace education resources which you could share with your local school.

    Quakers in Britain are a partner organisation of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in the UK, a coalition of non-governmental organisations promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations Treaty for the prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

    The War in Ukraine

    Between them, Russia and NATO possess around 120,000 nuclear warheads – enough to destroy the world many many times over. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 brought the two adversaries into indirect combat. The subsequent veiled threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin invoking Hiroshima and Nagasaki have once again highlighted the terrible risks that nuclear weapons pose. It's therefore imperative that we redouble our efforts to bring about a planet free of such weapons.

    The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) website contains many resources for those wishing to act to bring about a nuclear-free world, including leaflets, briefings, petitions and campaign posters.

    You could also help to build peace by getting involved in our own Citizen Diplomacy work.

    Contact us

    Peace Campaigns
    020 7663 1185