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March-April 2017

Pax Christi marks Global Campaign on Military Spending 20 – 23 April 

Front-GCOMS 2017 postcard imageA week ago the Ministry of Defence proudly announced that the UK is “stepping up across the globe: the 5th largest defence budget in the world and largest in Europe, rising by around £1Bn a year”

How will this promote sustainable security with research and investment into those things that will keep us truly safe?

A global coalition of organisations and grass-roots activists are this week (20 – 23 April)  taking part in a Global Campaign on Military Spending – bringing these questions to the attention of governments and communities around the world. They suggest the money would be better spent on healthcare, international cooperation & development, tackling climate change and investment education.

In the UK the GCOMS Coalition includes Pax Christi, the Quakers, CND, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Women in Black, Fellowship of Reconciliation and many more.  This is the fifth year that events have been organised in England, Wales and Scotland.

An on-line ballot has been created where people can vote for how they would distribute the £46 billion that is spent annual on militarism.  Events such as ballots, vigils and information stalls will be held in Scotland, Hereford, Yorkshire, throughout London, Oxford and more inviting people to take part in similar ballots and providing information on how much is spent on the military and offering creative, sustainable alternatives.

Internationally movements in the Philippines, South Korea, Kenya, Spain, Greece, Canada and the US will be using street theatre, seminars and marches as tools to promote a message that money spend on the military needs to be re-directed to serve the needs of humanity and the planet.

Bishop Kevin Dowling, Co-President of Pax Christi International to speak in Leeds on nonviolence and Archbishop Oscar Romero.

KevinBishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg in S Africa recently said: “It is appalling experiences like Syria -with over 400,000 people killed already – that has driven Pope Francis to state that we are in the midst of a “third world war in instalments”.

Bishop Kevin, will be in  Leeds to speak at an evening meeting on Tuesday 25 April at 7pm at the Oxford Place Centre in Leeds. He is Co-President of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace movement which operates in over 50 countries worldwide. He will be accompanied by Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi in the UK.

The meeting has been organised by the Diocese of Leeds Justice & Peace Commission. John Battle, Chair of the Commission commented:

“His visit couldn’t be more timely. New thinking on peace is badly needed at this time and we welcome not just Catholics but all who care about bringing peace to our world to come along and find out more.”

Bishop Kevin will be speaking about the developing Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and especially the lessons of nonviolence to be found in the life of Blessed Oscar Romero, who was assassinated by the military in El Salvador in 1979. Bishop Kevin was heavily involved in the launch conference (at the Vatican in April 2016) of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Pope Francis took up the theme of nonviolence when the global theme for the 2017 Sunday known as Peace Sunday in the Catholic Church was announced to be “Nonviolence, a style of politics for peace”. More recently Bishop Kevin has been a participant at the Vatican in discussions with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

At a recent speech in South Africa, Bishop Kevin said

“It is appalling experiences like Syria with over 400,000 people killed already that has driven Pope Francis to state that we are in the midst of a “third world war in instalments”. Our whole world – from the international arena, right down to experiences at the local level in many countries in the world, including our own in South Africa – seems to be trapped in a cycle of never-ending violence. …The challenge, therefore, is how to introduce the power of nonviolent responses to nations and communities, groups and individuals both to, if possible prevent wars and violence breaking out…”

 

Pax Christi joins Hidden Treasure Taizé Event, Birmingham 28-31 April 2017

At a time when violence and rumours of war dominate the news it is timely that Pax Christi’s workshop at the Hidden Treasure event is  “The scandal of the arms trade and our response as Christians”.  This will be offered by  Matt Jeziorski from Pax Christi, Sam Walton from Quaker Peace & Social Witness and Fr Martin Newell from the Passionists.

Elsewhere, in the Carrs Lane Church, the Pax Christi ICON of Peace will be present for prayer and reflection.  The ICON, created for Pax Christi in 1999 in a monastery near Jerusalem, relates stories of peacemakers from Eastern and Western Christian traditions and uses  scripture  stories of  reconciliation and healing.  At its centre is the image of the risen Christ, with the words “Christ is our Reconciliation” in Greek, Latin and Hebrew.

The ICON is a powerful focus for prayer, in recent years it has been used in prisons, cathedrals, schools and parishes as an aid to prayer, reflection and discussion on the task of peacemaking today.

Pax Christi and Taizé  have similar histories.  Both were formed by Christians in France who, coming out of the terrible experience of World War II, who believed that solidarity, peace, community  and prayer were to be nourished if the world was to find peace.

Pax Christi is delighted to be involved with the gathering in Birmingham and looks forward to meeting people of all ages and traditions who share a passion for peace and justice.

Military strikes and Syria  (7 April 2017)

C80QoGxXUAA1FBw (1)Pat Gaffney, general secretary of Pax Christi said today: “First, it is important to note that there have been on-going a irstrikes in Syria by a US-led coalition, supported by the UK, since August 2014.

“According to the NGO AIRWARS there were nine airstrikes in the past week, not counting the most recent, and around 7,900 since 2014. We hear almost nothing of these strikes or of their impact on the population of Syria.Pax Christi has challenged the legality of these actions with our own Government. We affirm Pope Francis’ message of last year, ‘There is no military solution for Syria’.

“With others we were appalled at the news of the chemical attacks earlier in the week. We do not believe that further military responses are in any way appropriate – they will feed in to a on-going cycle of violence and suffering. Legal and political solutions must be found to address the chemical attacks and to strengthen the on-going international peace processes for Syria.”

“We support the call by our Dutch partner PAX for immediate UN Security Council (UNSC) action in accordance with UNSC resolution 2209, which ‘decides in the event of future non-compliance with resolution 2118 [that prohibits the use, production, stockpiling of chemical weapons by the Syrian government or any other actor in Syria] to impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.”

Read the full statement from PAX here: 

 

Pax Christi working to urge UK participation in UN meetings on Nuclear Weapon Ban (20 March 2017)

Ban postcardToday, a YouGov poll indicates that 75% of UK adults think the Government should be represented at the up-coming negotiations at the United Nations in New York to work towards a legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons.  The Government have indicated that they will not attend.

Since the negotiations at the end of 2016, Pax Christi British section and members, together with Pax Christi International, have been lobbying the non-supporting countries, urging that they take part in the negotiations.  Pax Christi British section has written to the Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and to the UK Permanent Disarmament representative to the UN, Matthew Rowland, suggesting that a nuclear weapon ban would bring us in-line with other bans and prohibitions on other inhumane weapons systems – bans that the UK has affirmed, biological, chemical and so on. International bans and treaties of this kind have huge moral and legal significance in creating peace in our world.

Under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the UK Government has already promised to negotiate ‘in good faith’ the total elimination of our nuclear weapons.  In 2010 the UK Government gave an unequivocal undertaking that it was committed to fulfilling this promise.

Responses have been extremely disappointing.  Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi reports that the UK Government will not take part in the negotiations.  The Government argues that productive results on nuclear disarmament can only be achieved through a consensus-based approach.   Pax Christi argue that consensus based approached have failed to date to achieve results and that even the NPT was not negotiated in a consensus manner.  Ms Gaffney said “This decision gives a very poor message to the majority countries who support the ban negotiations.  Nuclear Weapon States surely have an even greater responsibility to be around the table and take a legal and moral lead.  A ban treaty will create clear structures and timetables for multilateral disarmament and so greatly increase the goal of nuclear weapon abolition”.

Call for a ban has also been articulated clearly by Pope Francis on the occasion of the 2014 Vienna conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons: “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home. The security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others, for if peace, security and stability are not established globally, they will not be enjoyed at all.”

Pax Christi International statement on Nuclear Weapons Ban Negotiation

 

Christians gather for Ash Wednesday challenge to nuclear war preparations. (1 March 2017 )

See more pictures from the day 

Opening prayer-service

Opening prayer-service

Cold and rain did not deter more than 80 Christians, including a group of Year 7 students and staff from Trinity School, Leamington Spa, from giving voice to their message to the Government: nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal.

This was the 35th Ash Wednesday witness, organised by Pax Christi, at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Whitehall. Gathering in a nearby park, ashes were blessed and distributed by Fr Joe Ryan, Chair of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission, and Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi invited those taking part to pray that our Government will change its mind and attend the up-coming meetings at the UN in New York to begin negotiations on a
nuclear weapon ban treaty.

Trinity School students with their headteacher

Trinity School students with their headteacher

Leaving the park, the participants stopped three times around the Ministry of Defence building, first for prayers of lamentation, for the damage caused by war and nuclear war preparations; then, facing the MoD building in a line that stretched the length of the building, they sang Ubi Caritas – an invitation to those who work on nuclear war
preparations to invest in work of love and mercy. Finally they gathered at the front entrance of the MoD for prayers of repentance which involved everyone if marking out the word REPENT in Ash and praying for a change of heart and mind that would take us away from our dependence on nuclear weapons. In their procession they carried statements from Pope Francis and other Christian leaders on the immorality of nuclear weapons.

The witness was supported by the London Catholic Worker and Christian CND. Earlier in the morning of Ash Wednesday LCW members Henrietta Cullinan and Fr Martin Newell prayed then marked the building with ash
and charcoal with words from scripture, ‘Let your hearts be broken’ and with the message, ‘ Support the UN nuclear ban’. There were no arrests.

In Liverpool 30-35 gathered for prayers and a procession thorugh the city. They received a message of support from  the Anglican Bishop of LIverpool, Paul Bayes. Jan Harper who coordinates the Pax Christi group gave an interview on the Radio Merseyside programme Daybreak on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. A similar event took place at the Faslane Naval Base, Scotland, organised by Glasgow Catholic Worker.

Here you can download the liturgy that was be used on 1 March

Download Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty briefing

 

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