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Nuns peacefully push for peace at Colorado Springs Air Force base

October 9, 2017 Updated: October 10, 2017 at 8:57 am
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Sisters Carol Gilbert, 69, left, and Ardeth Platte, 81, try to place a copy of the United Nations’ treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in the door visitors center front door Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, outside the west gate of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The center was closed because of the Columbus Day holiday so the nuns from Jonah House in Baltimore delivered it the the guards at the west gate. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Two unforeseen blockades didn't stop two Roman Catholic Dominican nuns from Baltimore from completing their mission to Colorado Springs on Monday.

They delivered to Peterson Air Force Base the new United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The deed came three days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the organization with which the sisters work.

"It was another blessing," declared Sister Ardeth Platte, 81, after a guard at the west gate accepted a copy of the document that she and Sister Carol Gilbert, 69, offered him.

The handoff went smoothly, even though the first gate to the base off East Platte Avenue was inaccessible and a visitors' center near the west gate was closed for Columbus Day.

"We would call this direct action," Platte told 19 students from a Colorado College class on environmental ethics, who watched the elderly sisters fearlessly walk onto the military installation to promote the treaty.

They've done the same at military sites in other states. The delivery at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming - the control site for 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the 49 in Colorado - took much longer, the nuns said.

"We feel what's going on is systemic crime," Platte said, as the vast amounts of money spent on nuclear proliferation could be used instead to help the poor.

The pair, who have sounded the battle cry for peace for decades, spent more than a month in New York City over the summer to work on the new treaty, the first legally binding multilateral agreement for nuclear disarmament in 20 years.

The United Nations, with the backing of 122 countries, adopted it July 7 and opened it for signatures and ratification Sept. 20.

The pact - which outlaws nuclear weapons and lays out a plan to eliminate them - would become law 90 days after at least 50 countries ratify it. To date, 53 countries have signed it and three ratified it.

No countries possessing nuclear warheads have supported it.

On Friday came the announcement that the organization with which the sisters work, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, received the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 in recognition of its role in achieving the historic treaty and its work "to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons."

Colorado College senior Rebecca Glazer, from the San Francisco Bay area, said she respects and admires the sisters, who have been arrested numerous times in Colorado Springs and other cities for nonviolent civil disobedience in calling for nuclear disarmament.

"What they're doing is powerful and inspiring," Glazer said. "It's an incredibly important task to try to stop the proliferation of nuclear arms and send the message that we shouldn't just be pointing guns at each other but trusting each other to build a peaceful world."

While in Colorado Springs, Gilbert and Platte also are speaking to classes at Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Tuesday, they'll present a copy of the treaty to Schriever Air Force Base employees.

"We're looking at a variety of environmental issues and concerns, ranging from local to global, trying to understand different perspectives," said Colorado College Philosophy Professor Marion Hourdequin, in explaining why her class watched Monday's action. "It's an opportunity to gain a richer understanding of the convictions of these Catholic sisters and their ongoing efforts to work for peace and nuclear disarmament."

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