27 February : Pax Christi to take part in blockade and prayer vigils at AWE Burghfield
Members of Pax Christi will be among hundreds of others taking part in a nonviolent blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield in Reading from 7.00am on Monday 2 March. AWE Burghfield is one of two factories involved in the loading of
nuclear warheads. AWE Aldermaston produce the ingredients and AWE Burghfield assembles them. Nuclear warheads move up and down between AWE Burghfield and Faslane submarine base in Scotland. The whole event is the initiative of Action AWE who hope that this will be the beginning of a more sustained blockade of the work of AWE Burghfield.
Pax Christi is coordinating a Christian presence at one of the entrances to the site where there will be formal prayers offered on the hour and silent prayer every half hour to take account of the varying traditions of those taking part.
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi said, “This is the third witness we have made since January in our on-going challenge to the UKs nuclear weapons policy and Trident in particular. This is a critical time, the run -up to a General Election and also a time when decisions will be made in the months ahead as to whether to replace the existing Trident nuclear weapons programme. Christians must act now to make it clear that nuclear weapons have no place in maintaining true security for our country or our world. We write letters, we sign petition and sometimes we need to take direct action to interrupt the ‘business as usual’ of nuclear war preparations “.
Support for the blockade and witness have come a variety of Christian leaders including Pax Christi’s International General Secretary, Jose Henrique, from Bishop Thomas Mc Mahon who says, “In my view it is obscene to contemplate spending £100bn on replacing Trident when there are so many other pressing needs.” From Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes writes, “Christians are called to speak clearly, calmly and powerfully for peace. From time to time we are also called to stand up for peace, or to sit down for it. The replacement of Trident is a matter for national discussion and decision.” Pax Christi will be joined by members of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship,
the Religious Society of Friends, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and others.
19 February: Pax Christi and others encourage peace efforts in Ukraine
Pax Christi, together with the Quakers, Methodists, URC and others have written a private letter to Mr Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, expressing concern that the further build-up of weapons and use of aggressive language might propel Europe into a wider conflict with unknown and dangerous consequences.
The signatories called on the governments of France, Germany and UK to ensure that every effort be made to demilitarise the crisis.
The letter stated that humanitarian aid and other confidence-building measures are likely to be crucial and suggested that, looking forward, the UK and EU must seek to provide reassurance to all the people of Ukraine.
The signatories have also written to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande to encourage and welcome their work of in helping to broker a ceasefire agreement.
Around 150 people gathered in London, members of Pax Christi, Christian CND, London Catholic Worker and Westminster Justice & Peace to challenge the UK Government nuclear weapons policy.
Opening the time of prayer, Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi said that Christian witness of this kind has taken place for the past 33 years on Ash Wednesday at the Ministry of Defence, bringing prayer and the symbols of the day – charcoal and ash – to the streets and to this government ministry. Such public witness, she said, unmasks the horrific reality of nuclear weapons, one that the government would prefer to keep hidden. Today, she said, we would call on the government to ‘turn away’ from nuclear war preparations.
Placards bearing the words of Pope Francis were carried in procession around the building. One message read: Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations…when these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak pay the price.
Earlier in the day the building had been marked with blessed charcoal by Dr Ray Towey. He wrote the words Trident = Genocide, Choose Life. In Liverpool Pax Chrsiti members processed to the City Centre to witness against the replacement of Trident and at the Faslane Naval Base in Scotland members of the Glasgow Catholic Worker gathered for prayer.
Tying black and purple ribbons to a white cross, those taking part offered prayers for all those who are victims of the violence of war. Outside the main Ministry of Defence building the word REPENT was marked out in charcoal and ash on a large sheet of sackcloth while placards and banners saying No Trident and Scrap Trident were held up towards the building while listening to a reflection from Gerry Hughes sj : The call of repentance is a call to the nation to change political, social and economic structures which oppress and exploit the weak.
More actions are planned in the weeks ahead. On 2 March Pax Christi will support a blockade at AWE Burghfield, Berkshire and in April a Global Day of Action on Military Spending.