LEWISTON — Emily Welty is not one to settle for small victories or quiet campaigns.

After all, she is taking on one of the world’s toughest and potentially most dangerous foes: The 15,000 nuclear weapons possessed by fewer than 10 countries that have the capacity to devastate the planet.

Welty told 50 people gathered Wednesday at the Muskie Archives at Bates College for the annual Rayborn Lindley Zerby Lectureship on Contemporary Religious Thought that the weapons are evil and their existence “fundamentally violates the core tenets” of every major religion.

Her fight against them as a leader in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons led her to share the stage with colleagues when the 12-year-old group received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

The prize, Welty said, “changes your life a lot.”

For one thing, people take her more seriously. On the other hand, she said, it makes her worry about being too snarky on Twitter or wearing the wrong shoes.


Welty, a professor and director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University in New York, has tried to use the prize’s prestige to press forward with the group’s goal of ridding the Earth of nuclear weapons.

She regularly lobbies at the United Nations where her group convinced 122 governments in 2017 to vote in favor of a treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons, a step forward in what she hopes will be a moral crusade that convinces every nation to give them up the same way that earlier efforts successfully consigned chemical and biological weapons to the dustbin.

Welty said her group, commonly called ICAN, is able to spur a broad conversation about nuclear weapons because of its recognition by the Nobel Committee.

“We won the Nobel for believing that another world is possible,” Welty said.

She said ICAN is pursuing the ultimate end of the terrible weapons that haven’t been used in battle since the United States, hoping to finish a horrible war, leveled most of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan in 1945. The two bombs together killed 200,000 people.

A number of countries have nuclear arsenals today, including Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and almost certainly Israel, which has never admitted it has them.


Emily Welty of the 2017 Nobel Prize-winning group International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons speaks Wednesday afternoon at Bates College in Lewiston.

All of these nations, Welty said, need to be convinced to give up the bombs, a campaign that will require “courage, resilience and a lot of imagination.”

It is the duty of spiritual people, Welty said, to remind everyone that a better world can be created. Thinking about the dangers and the waste posed by nuclear arms, she said, can make her emotional.

“To not have emotions about nuclear weapons that can kill millions of people seems sociopathic to me,” Welty said.

Welty said she understands not everyone can be as active in the fight as she is.

But, she said, there are things everyone can do that would help.

Standing on the sidelines, she said, won’t cut it.


“It’s time to step out,” Welty said.

Welty called for Americans to “look at where your money is invested” and where churches, governments, colleges and other institutions put their cash. Make sure it is not supporting entities involved with nuclear weaponry, she said.

In addition, she said, ICAN is trying to get cities across the country to take a stance against nuclear weapons. She urged audience members to press Lewiston to join the anti-nuclear communities.

“The world is worth fighting for,” Welty said.


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