25 May Pax Christi AGM in Liverpool
” To be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves” in our communication and campaigning for peace and nonviolence was the challenge set out by Symon Hill, guest speaker at Pax Christi’s Annual General Meeting in Liverpool on 24 May. Symon, an activist and writer (Digital Revolutions Activism in the Internet Age) spoke of the power of creativity and surprise in the nonviolent challenge to power and systems of violence and injustice: from the First World War COs who subverted the military communication system to convey to the world that they were being moved to France for execution to the Israelis and Iranians who used Facebook to tell their Governments that ‘Israel loves Iran ‘ and Iran loves Israel’ – giving voice to thousands of ordinary citizens. The use of social media and the internet does not replace traditional forms of campaigning, dissent or witness but can add value to it and reach new people with the peace challenge of the Gospel.
Around 80 people attended the meeting, held in the Catholic Chaplaincy and co-hosted by Pax Christi Liverpool. Also attending were newly elected Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, President of Pax Christi, who celebrated Mass and Jose Henrique, international secretary of Pax Christi from Brussels.
Opening the meeting Pax Christi chair Anne Dodd stated that the teaching from the Sermon on the Mount to Pope Francis is clear and consistent and Pax Christi’s work is to do all that is possible to build that peace, involving everyone we can, wherever we can. Reports from staff illustrated how this is happening. In the first four months of the year Pax Christi had recruited 35 new members and donations for Peace Sunday has exceeded those of 2013. There is great demand for publications and resources, not just among members but from other organisations and networks. The office and members around the country have organised imaginative events to mark the Global Day of Action on Military Spending and took a lead in co-ordinating the No Faith in Trident speaking tour with Bruce Kent which will culminate in a Lobby of Parliament on 11 June.
Most recently Pax Christi played a key role in bringing families of 70 First World War COs to London for International Conscientious Objector Day which attracted huge national and regional press interest.
Anne Dodd reminded members that Pax Christi cannot be complacent. While we still have a nuclear weapons policy, while we are still engaged in the arms trade we need to work to encourage our church leaders to be clear in speaking out, reflecting Gospel values and church teaching.
Three new people were elected to the Executive Committee, Chris Cole from Oxford, Helen Gilbert from Birmingham and Holly Ball from London. Thanks were given to those standing down: Treasurer John Dowbekin, and Michael Mitchell and Sr Christine Charlwood.
15 May International Conscientious Objector Day
Among the stories was that of Alfred Herbert Dobbing from Sunderland in Co Durham. His military tribunal refused to recognise his application to be a CO and his was enlisted then court-martialled for disobedience serving three sentences in Newcastle and Durham prisons. His granddaughter Mary spoke of how he remained committed peace work throughout his life with a particular focus on the Middle East. Tom Attlee was also remembered. The father-in law of Peggy Attlee a long standing Pax Christi member and brother of Clement Attlee, Tom was motivated by his Christian beliefs. He was a member of the No Conscription Fellowship and was arrested and imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs and then Wandsworth Gaol. Sydney Silverman was the son of Jewish immigrants. His son Paul spoke of his life-long commitment to social justice following his initial conscientious objection to the First World War. He went on to be Labour MP for Nelson and Colne which he held until his death in 1968. Paul related his pride in his father who was instrumental in passing the Bill to abolish the death penalty.
Sam Walton from Quaker Peace & Social Witness urged those present to remember and learn from history – conscientious objection, he said, is not simply an historical matter and he gave the example of Michael Lyons who was imprisoned for his objection to the war in Afghanistan.
The theme was also celebrated in song when the choir from Maria Fidelis School Camden led the three-hundred people gathered in the song The ones who said No written by Sue Gilmurray.
The role of women peacemakers of the time was another feature of the commemoration – a role often forgotten today. Catherine Marshall worked tirelessly to promote and support the cause of Cos when most of the male leadership had been imprisoned. Alice Wheeldon, whose son William had been an objector was a socialist and anti-war campaigner from Derby. Alice was imprisoned for conspiring to murder the then Prime Minister and a campaign continues to clear her name. Her great granddaughter Chloe Mason made the journey from Australia to be a part of the commemorations.
The event was organised by the First World War Peace Forum – a coalition made up of Conscience, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Network for Peace, Pax Christi, Peace News, Peace Pledge Union, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, the Right to Refuse to Kill group and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Remembering those who said no ( Independent Catholic News)
World War I COs who were worked to death in labour camps, jailed and tortured ( Daily MIrror)
2 May 2014
Pax Christi and others send joint Letter to David Cameron on National Security Strategy
Fourteen groups, including CAAT, War on Want, Greenpeace and Pax Christi have written to David Cameron about the National Security Strategy (NSS) review and the Defence and Security Review (DSR) which are scheduled to be published after the 2015 General Election. Among other things they urge that the Government ask the right questions about the UKs role in the world. Writing of the UKs involvement in Afghanistan the letter states that UK has prioritised force projection and military intervention – such an approach has brought about neither the stable democracies that it had hoped to encourage nor the demise of jihadist insurgency and terrorism. In order to shape the UKs future strategy in the world in a coherent manner the organisations believe that
1) At this time of flux, there is a need to address some fundamental questions that have been neglected in the past, in particular the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and threats to security.
2) There is a need to be honest about the UK’s capability to contribute to tackling security challenges, and the Government needs to be prepared to change its approach, not simply focusing on dealing with the symptoms of insecurity.
3) This discussion needs to be frank, inclusive and (as far as possible) take place in the public realm.
4. The DSR needs to sit clearly and transparently within the NSS, with its decisions justified by reference to the NSS