February 14, 2011
Douglas Roche shows no sign of letting up in his campaign for nuclear disarmament.

WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN

Douglas Roche shows no sign of letting up in his campaign for nuclear disarmament.

GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Douglas Roche, long-time nuclear disarmament activist and founding editor of the Western Catholic Reporter, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Roche, who has served as senator, member of Parliament and Canada's ambassador for disarmament, has been nominated by the International Peace Bureau for his role in launching and leading the Middle Powers Initiative.

The initiative is an international effort urging 30 governments to use their diplomatic influence to control and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

"I'm in this for my grandchildren, not for me," Roche said in an interview in his central Edmonton home. "I'm not working to achieve (total nuclear disarmament) in my lifetime. It's far too complex. But it had better be achieved in the lifetime of my grandchildren or the situation will run out of control."

At 81, Roche shows no sign of letting up after more than 25 years totally dedicated to working for disarmament.

He's off to Ottawa in two weeks to follow up on an initiative he led of 550 members of the Order of Canada that successfully urged the House of Commons and Senate to pass a resolution asking the Canadian government to launch a diplomatic initiative for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Next month, he releases his 20th book, How We Stopped Loving the Bomb: An Insider's Account of the World on the Brink of Nuclear Disarmament.

And he's already planning a lecture series at university campuses across Canada in the fall. "I want to help young people understand and become involved in this issue," he says.

"A lot of people in the early 80s would be saying it's time to hang up their skates. But I don't feel that way," Roche said. He has developed the knowledge and reputation that enables him to work effectively for disarmament. The Nobel nomination energizes him to work even harder.

"God has blessed me with health and he has spared me for some reason."

Roche has already received numerous awards for his work for peace and disarmament including the Order of Canada, the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation for World Peace Award, honorary citizenship in the city of Hiroshima and eight honorary doctorates from Canadian and U.S. universities.

But he never expected to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. "The fact of being nominated is for me a significant thing. I'm not looking for anything more. I'm happy my career has come to this point."

GOD'S GUIDANCE

Roche, a member of Assumption Parish with his wife Patricia, said God has guided his life in bringing him to Edmonton to start the WCR, in helping him serve in Parliament and in his work on nuclear disarmament.

"I don't have a private pipeline to God, but I feel guided by him."

He's clear on one thing: "I do not think God made this beautiful world in order to have it blown up by nuclear weapons.

"I believe that on this earth, God's plan of development has to be taken up by us. He had his seven days of development. The rest of us have to do some work too."

"I do not accept the argument that nuclear weapons cannot be contained. What is needed is the political will," he said.

Treaties can be enforced

Treaties already ban chemical and biological weapons and there is inspection and verification to enforce those treaties, he says. The same can happen with nuclear weapons.

What needs to be overcome is "the brainwashing by the military-industrial complex that we have to have these horrendous weapons for our own safety and security," Roche continued.

Every year, $100 billion is spent on nuclear weapons, even though everyone says they can't be used. "There are key people who are making a lot of money off of this and they have manipulated public opinion.

MANIPULATION

"I'm part of a movement to strike back at this manipulation of public opinion."

Throughout his career as journalist, politician and activist, Roche has drawn sustenance from Catholic social teaching. Right from Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, through Pope John XXIII's Pacem in Terris - "the greatest of all the encyclicals" - to Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio and the many encyclicals of Pope John Paul II, he is encouraged by the Church's promotion of human rights.

The Church defends the right to life and that includes a right to peace, he says. "Everybody has the human right to peace which is absolutely incompatible with weapons of mass destruction."

Nuclear weapons are anti-human, he says. "They deprive humanity of its most precious possession which is hope for a better future."