The Bell Toll Project

Commemorating the end of nuclear weapons testing

As 1996 begins, a momentous achievement is within reach: a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons testing. The completion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, if achieved, will be the culmination of a decades-long struggle by the international peace and disarmament community. It is up to that community to define that victory in its own terms, not the terms of the politicians who have been dragged reluctantly to the negotiating table. The signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will present non-governmental organizations with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present our message to the world. It is not enough, although it is certainly critical, to pat ourselves on the back for a tireless and now ultimately successful struggle. Instead, the international activist community must use this historic opportunity as a springboard for a renewed push toward the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.


The CTB Clearinghouse proposes an international bell-tolling on the day the test ban is signed to mark the overwhelming environmental, political, and economic damage that nuclear testing has wrought on the planet and to announce a new call for total nuclear disarmament. The CTB Clearinghouse urges churches, shrines, and other appropriate institutions to ring their bells 51 times to mark 51 years of nuclear testing. This bell-tolling should draw attention to r-he emerging nuclear abolition campaign. It should be accompanied by a single statement, read worldwide, that celebrates the end of nuclear testing and calls for a world without nuclear weapons.


The United Nations has called on the Geneva Conference on Disarmament to produce a completed test ban, ready for signature, by the time the United Nations General Assembly reconvenes in September 1996. Most countries agree that in order to meet that goal negotiators must approve a final treaty text by June. This is the stated position of the Clinton administration. The CTB Clearinghouse proposes that grassroots activists begin laying the groundwork for a September bell-tolling as soon as the test ban is reported out of Geneva. Every church should be invited to participate, but the Clearinghouse urges activists to organize a press event to coincide with the signing ceremony at the most historic or otherwise notable bell tower in their town.

"The world's nuclear weapons have been tested in over 2000 explosions at more than 20 locations around the globe. Their deadly efficacy is all too clear.
"Now, here in this body, the workings of another way of resolving humanity's disagreements are on trial. Now it is we who are being tested.
"We dare not fail. Our success will ring through the ages."

John Holum, Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to the Geneva Conference on Disarmament at the opening of the 1996 round of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations, January 23, 1996.

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