Remembering Albert Schweitzer

Over the years, theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer has been declared a prophet.

He addressed the issue of nuclear weapons throughout his career. Lately, nuclear weapons have again been grabbing headlines. North Korea is using its nuclear arsenal as a threat and the international community must devote its efforts to solving the problem of this rogue state. The United States sits on top of a nuclear arsenal that can destroy the world many times over. Some in Congress are taking steps to limit President Donald Trump’s use of the nuclear arsenal and arms control experts are concerned about the deadly brew of nuclear weapons and cyber warfare. A cyber-warrior might be able to hack into a country’s nuclear arsenal and launch a weapon.

Schweitzer had doubts about nuclear weapons during World War II. He addressed an issue in a letter to the London Dailey Herald in 1954.  He later addressed the issue of nuclear weapons during his speech accepting the Noble Peace Prize of 1952 in Oslo.

Albert Einstein and the scientific community wanted Schweitzer to raise his voice against nuclear weapons. Following the test of the hydrogen bomb in 1954, Schweitzer began to study nuclear politics and its impact on humanity. Robert Jungk wrote : “Almost everyone who met Schweitzer privately between the year 1954 and 1957 was questioned about the subject of nuclear weapons.”

Schweitzer spoke up against using the nuclear bomb and the military issues surrounding the technology, from the standpoint of his ethical worldview. He wrote a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower which reflected his deep thoughts on nuclear matters: “In my heart I carry the hope I may somehow be able to contribute to the peace of the world. This I know has always been our deepest wish. We both share the conviction that humanity must find a way to control the weapons which now menace the very existence of life on earth. May it be given to us both to see the day when the world’s people will realize that the fate of all humanity is now at stake, and that it is urgently necessary to make the bold decisions that can deal adequately with the agonizing situation in which the world now finds itself.”

Schweitzer became a staunch advocate of peace by voicing his support for stopping the use of nuclear technology in the name of national interests. Many intellectuals and scientists like Bertrand Russell, Norman Cousins, Einstein and Pablo Casals backed his position on nuclear weapons. The physician continued to make his thoughts known on this type of weaponry. In 1958, Schweitzer signed a petition to the United Nations, along with 9,325 other scientists, to urge nations to stop nuclear testing. Schweitzer later delivered three speeches  –‘The Renunciation of Nuclear Tests’, ‘The Danger of an Atomic War’ and ‘Negotiations at the Highest Levels’- that gained the attention of academics and those active on the international political stage.

Schweitzer wrote a letter to President Kennedy and advocated nuclear “disarmament under effective international control” and also said that “only when states agree not to carry out tests any more can promising negotiations about disarmament and peace take place.” During the Cuban Missile Crises, America showed a desire to hit the land with a nuclear bomb in order to resolve the Cuban crisis. Schweitzer responded with an open letter to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The doctor and theologian dedicated his life to making sure humanity had a future and provided plans for that future.

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