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Members’ News 2016

October 2016:  Pax Christi member Paul McGowan reports on the West Midland Pension Fund  cluster bomb campaign – ramifications of success

Significant changes have happened in the last month. Textron (USA) announced its intention to cease production of cluster bombs. Pressure groups on both sides of the Atlantic have contributed to this, as has the publicity given to the use of Textron bombs in the war in Yemen. Then, on September 14, the Trustees of WMPF agreed to exert pressure on Hanwha (South Korea) to abandon the cluster bomb trade. This is entirely due to the local campaign, especially in Coventry, and means that all of the WMPF’s investments in cluster bombs will come to an end. The Strategic Director of WMPF has expressed ‘delight’ with the Textron statement, and Trustees have described the cluster bomb trade as ‘horrific’. These are the first public pronouncements on this issue from West Midlands officials.  Read on

September 2016 : World Week for Peace in Palestine & Israel events

Cambridge Pax Christi members Arn and Lynn Dekker invited former EAPPI  Emma Pritchard to  give a presentation at St.Laurence’s RC Church on 5th September. The Cambridge Justice and Peace group organised this and there was a very well informed discussion afterwards.  There was also information about the WWPPI in the parish newsletter and they reproduced part of the prayer for the Week written by Jan Sutch Pickard .

The Justice and Peace group of South East Edinburgh Churches Acting Together hosted a service on 18 September, at Gilmerton New Church, to mark the start of the WWPPI week.

Elspeth Strachan gave three reflections from her time as a human rights monitor with EAPPI. These focused on: the separation barrier; checkpoint 300 with images of oppression and humiliation; Tent of Nations with its principle “we refuse to be enemies”. We responded to each in a time of prayer, in silence and using resources from PIEF: poems from Isobel de Gruchy, Jan Sutch Pickard and Clarissa Pinkola Estes; songs including ones in Hebrew and Arabic.

The service continued into opportunities to discuss other ways to respond, the most immediate of these being by supporting Palestinian artisans thanks to a stall from Hadeel (www.hadeel.org); and to see Palestine in an exhibition of photography by young Paestinians, thanks to Phil Chetwynd (Network of Photographers in Palestine)

eaton-square-meetingThe Westminster and Bayswater Amnesty International Group, organised an evening on Palestine on 20 September at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square. Pax Christi member Fleur Brennan invited three speakers Victoria Brittain, journalist involved in Action4PalestinianChildren, Geoffrey Bindeman QC and Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi . The themes explored included the impact of the occupation on the lives of children, the issue of child detention and the legal framework that allows this to happen and the impact of house demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The group were invited to take the action promoted by the World Week for Palestine and Israel, to write to their MP about the increased number of house demolitions this year in the occupied Palestinian territory.  Full report here 

An ecumenical service at All  Saints in Kings Heath, Birmingham attracted around 40 people.   The organisers used prayers prepared for the week and music from the region too.  They had the Silent Voices photographic  exhibition and gave out the WWPPI action postcards too ( and ordered for for use at other events in the weeks ahead!).

24 August, Sue Scott from Birmingham: a creative approach to raising awareness about Palestine

A small group based at St. Dunstan’s in Birmingham has started holding a stall at the monthly Kings Heath farmers’ market in order to sell Palestinian goods and to raise awareness of the situation in Palestine/Israel. The stall has a variety of information leaflets and is brightly decorated with peace flags and kites, and kite-making sessions have been held, which attract the children. One of us takes round a small tray of olive oil, za’atar and pieces of flat bread and invites people to “a taste of Palestine”. This has proved a useful way of engaging people in discussion and of directing them to the stall. We feel the project so far has been successful enough for us to continue (though our hardiness may be tested
when winter comes!).

9 August Pax Christi members  commemorate Hiroshima

FlowersWe do have creative members!  In Barnet, Sheila Gallagher offered a time of prayer for Hiroshima and Nagasaki based around the Rosary. This took place in the parish Peace Garden.  Sheila says, ” the Rosary is always said after morning Mass and those attending  like incorporating it into a service for Peace.  Between each decade I insert readings and reflections on nuclear weapons and peacemaking.  20 people took part, including the parish priest “.

In Southampton, Audrey Campbell used Fr Rob Esdailes  powerful Poem on Hiroshima in the parish newsletter and created bidding prayers for the Mass on Nagasaki day, together with prayers and lighting candles for peace.

In Kendal, Anne Brown  organised a  Peace Vigil, remembering Hiroshima between  11 am to 12 noon, outside the Catholic Church on New Road, Kendal, with  local Catholics and Quakers.

 

8 August, Abingdon Peace Group Hiroshima Vigil by Anne Dodd

Hiroshima Day vigil, Abingdon, 2016Members of Abingdon Peace Group, including 2 Pax Christi members, held our annual silent vigil in the centre of Abingdon at the time of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. We were joined by Katsuaki Inoue whose father was living in Hiroshima at the time. Later in the morning we had an exhibition of photos in the Market Square which were given to Abingdon Peace Group by a group of Hiroshima survivors some time ago. This exhibition – making the link with Trident – infinitely more powerful – attracted a good deal of attention as the Market Square was busy. I did a short interview with Radio Oxford on their Breakfast Show  about the significance of the Day, the Vigil and the Exhibition.

Katsuaki said, “My father was living in Hiroshima in 1945, but was fortunately in a village a few miles away on August 6th when the bomb was dropped. I am so touched that people in Abingdon still remember what happened. Thank you!”

 

19 July, Pax Christi’s Emma Atherton gains Celebrating Young People Award.

Emma with George Mizen and Margaret MIzen

Emma with George Mizen and Margaret MIzen

Hundreds of young people gathered in London on 19 July to take part in this Award Ceremony to celebrate their  work for peace, justice, solidarity, care of creation.  Emma Atherton, from Wigan/Bradford and a member of the Pax Christi Executive Committee was one of three people who received the JImmy MIzen Award for Peace for her long-standing commitment to working for peace and for a new project she has created in Liverpool to work with women refugees.  We were very proud of Emma.

Read more about this great initiative here 

Another Pax Christi member, Tom Calouri was given the Inspiring Youth Leader Award for years of support for youth work and the Young Christian Workers .  As  a teacher Tom also created many opportunities for peace and justice issues to be brought into his school

 

8 July 2016, member Paul McGowan challenges Coventry Council over continued investment in Textron 

Following more than two years of campaigning against West Midlands Pension Fund investments in Textron, a US Company involved in the production of Cluster Munitions, the Pension Committee say they will not divest.  Here is Paul’s memo to members of the Council:  You can read earlier reports here 

Dear Councillor,
This brief communication is to ensure you are informed about the current position regarding the investment of Coventry Council Tax money in the cluster bomb trade.
On June 22nd the Pensions Committee of the West Midlands Pension Fund agreed that the Fund should not disinvest from TEXTRON, an American firm in which roughly £500,000 is invested. In addition, the Fund has stated that it has concluded its engagement programme with this company and does not propose to take any further action at this juncture.
WMPF does not dispute that TEXTRON is a manufacturer of cluster bombs, or that UK law forbids UK Nationals to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, the trade and production of cluster bombs.
WMPF has already dropped three other cluster bomb manufacturers from its portfolio and forced a fourth to withdraw from this trade. TEXTRON is the last firm involved in the trade funded by WMPF.
I am sure you will feel that the City of Peace and Reconciliation should have no part in this trade, and I would be grateful if you would email me with a simple YES or NO to the question below at: bpmcgowan@hotmail.com
Do you agree that the WMPF should withdraw all investments in TEXTRON because of the company’s involvement in the cluster bomb trade, which is illegal in the UK?
29 June 2016 – Pax Christi take part in Kairos Britain Forum
KairosBritainAnn Farr, Board Member of Pax Christi International and our representative in Kairos Britain (centre) with Holly Ball, Chair of Pax Christi UK and speaker, Father Jamal, a theologian and lecturer at Bethlehem University gave a passionate address in which he called for  continued struggle for justice in Palestine and Israel.    The focus for the day was Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.
Find out about Kairos Britain and Kairos Palestine.   Report on the day here 
15 May, Edinburgh Conscientious Objector event  – report from Pax Christi member Arianna Andreangeli
Arianna with image of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter

Arianna with image of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter

Objectors in all conflicts for Scotland.  Just before the Scottish Parliament was dissolved in advance of the May 2016 elections, a motion, tabled by Alison Johnstone MSP was tabled asking to set this date as the day in which, throughout Scotland, these heroes of conscience are remembered.  The motion received near-unanimous support.  It was therefore with great joy that along with about 50 other individuals, from all walks of life–Christians from many denominations, atheists, socialists and simply people of conscience and great sense of what is right–I gathered at the bottom of the Mound, on Princes Street to sing, read names and bear witness to those individuals that bore imprisonment, exclusion from family and society and even death just because, in the words of Daniel Berrigan SJ, RIP, they knew where they stood, and stood there.

Many there were children and relatives of conscientious objectors, and their testimonies were really poignant–Elizabeth Allen, a Quaker, spoke of her father and her grandfather, who both objected to the draft in 1916 and again before the Second World War. Brian Larkin from the Justice and Peace centre remembered his meeting with Fr Berrigan, as he sought advice as to how to respond to being possibly called up by the US army in the late 70s and 80s.  As for me, I just spoke the words of our Conscientious Objector, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, another man of conscience who knew where he stood, and stood there.  He was not an intellectual or someone very well educated, but he knew the strength of his convictions and his moral compass.

20160515_160130_resizedWe look forward now to next year, and to many other occasions to remember our Conscientious Objectors in Edinburgh and the Lothians and in Scotland.  We are campaigning and fundraising for the creation of a memorial around which to gather and pray and sing, as we did in Princes Street and hopefully the end of 2017 will see us accomplishing that goal. Nonetheless, just to have a day in the calendar is a small but very meaningful victory for all of us.

 

 

27 April, 2016 Ann Farr reports on  local election hustings, Earlsdon, Coventry

ArmsTrade_City CouncilPax Christi Executive members, Paul McGowan and Ann Farr, attended the Earlsdon Ward Local Council election Hustings in Coventry earlier this week. They raised the issue of the West Midlands Consortium Pension Fund investments in cluster bombs and in the occupation of Palestine. Coventry, which refers to itself as the ‘City of Peace and Reconciliation’, has millions of pounds invested in weapons of torture and war

All the candidates stated that they were against the investments in the arms trade but less clear about how Coventry Council might take a lead in divesting from the companies involved. There are also investments in Caterpillar, G4s and Hewlett Packard all involved in the security and prison services in Israel which violate international law and deny Palestinians their human rights. No prospective Councillor answered this part of the issue with any clarity.

The Coventry RC Deanery Justice and Peace Group has campaigned for three years for divestment. To begin with, no Councillors that we met with had any idea where the Pension Fund money was invested. A petition, letters and constant leafleting and lobbying has not resulted in Coventry Council, as a whole, using its unique position to take a lead in working for divestment but, because of the campaigning, the Consortium has reduced its holdings in some weapons firms. A few individual Councillors have been supportive of the campaign, including the present Ward incumbent, who last night said that the campaigning has made a difference and we should not be despondent. However, he could not see the debate being raised again in the near future.  The Labour Party candidate said from the platform, ‘If you have a campaign, I will support it.’ The Green Party and Conservative Party candidates both spoke to us afterwards offering their future support.

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