We are delighted that Bruce Kent and Dr Valerie Flessati, Vice Presidents of Pax Christi England and Wales, have been awarded The Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism. “For exceptional, tireless and lifelong dedication to the Christian ecumenical search for peace, both individually and together.” Congratulations to them both for this well deserved recognition.
Active non – violence course in Leeds February/March 2021
Active non – violence course In Leeds February/March 2021
Some of us from the Leeds Pax Christi group joined in the Active non- violence course that Pax Christi offered last year and thought it would be a great offer to people in the Leeds Diocese, we partnered with Leeds Justice and Peace group and offered a stand-alone introductory session led by Pat Gaffney about the Catholic Non- violence Initiative, people were then invited to the five evening sessions.
An average of 22 people joined the sessions and one of the unexpected blessings of lockdown is that there were people from much wider than just the Leeds Diocese, including Salford, Nottingham, Liverpool and even the USA and Lanzarote.
Despite the limitations of zoom, there was a real sense of community and of reflective people struggling with how to live a life of non- violence.
For some people it was a moment to reflect that some of the everyday activities they are involved in, for example building interfaith relationships are active non- violence. Someone else in the group is involved in the Caritas Criminal Justice project in the diocese and very clearly saw the links between active non- violence and Restorative Justice. We were fortunate to have people in the group who had experience of a whole range of active non- violence including Greenham Common activists and those more recently protesting against the DSEI arms sales event in 2019.
People also fed back that it was great to have an open discussion about active non- violence and to deepen our understanding. One person said it was a thought-provoking introduction to active non- violent peace-making that addressed personal and institutional ways forward.
In the latest book of Pope Francis’s reflections he invites us to contemplate, discern and be purposeful or see judge and act as we might be more familiar with. At the end of the course we invited people to make their own commitment in private to active non- violence and we will meet again in May to share our reflections.
The Pax Christi group are now reflecting on how to follow the course up. One suggestion is to look at the evidence for active non- violence and to do some theological reflection.
Carol Burns, March 2021
I always find our silent vigils, on the steps of Coventry Cathedral Ruins, very powerful. Powerful enough at times to move people to tears. There may be two or twenty-two gathered, but the silence is powerful whatever the number.
We have stood there on so many occasions, to remember Soweto, to call for the release of political prisoners, in times of imminent invasion of a country, in times of war, to protest the possession of nuclear weapons and Coventry Council’s investment in cluster bombs and on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days. We have joined in world peace vigils, holding our candles so that the lights shine out to unite with those of others.
We are lucky to have the Cathedrals, old and new, in the middle of the city, both incredibly symbolic. The old and the new, death and resurrection, the phoenix rising from the ashes. The huge expanse of the glass West Window gives us a view of the Tapestry behind the altar and reflections of the ruins behind us and of the passers-by.
The canopy between the two Cathedrals sheltering us from the rain is an advantage – but it is a terrible wind tunnel!
It is interesting to watch the different reactions of people as they pass in front of us, from the Bus Station or University to the Shopping Precinct, or as they climb the steps on either side of us.
Some are totally unaware of us, chatting to each other, talking on their phones or walking in a very determined way with their task in mind.
Judging by the carrier bags we saw, on their way back, many were going to shop in Primark just up in the Precinct. Others are on their lunch break or maybe visiting for a short time. Others are aware but pretend not to notice us. Some come right up close to read the placards that we have stuck to the steps beneath us. We get smiles and thumbs up too and occasionally someone will join us for a while. A few even hesitate to walk in front of us and silently gesture asking for permission to carry on walking. A time of silence, of reflection, and of being with others both those on the steps and passers-by, as we hope for better times.
Campaigning for Peace in Lockdown – Anne Dodd
There is both more freedom and more restriction. This irony was brought home particularly in the marking of the coming into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last month/ in January. We ( Abingdon Peace Group – I am a member of this as well as a member of Pax Christi ) had to scale down our plans to offer a glass of celebratory bubbly to people in the Market Place in the centre of town. We had hoped to set up a stall with banners and large imitation bottles of champagne – alas no longer possible as restrictions on gatherings got tighter and tighter. However 9 or 10 of us did stand socially distanced in the central Market Place on the Saturday morning (23rd January) with banners and placards – all clearly visible from a distance. The images were shared as widely as we could on social media. Bells were rung and banners displayed outside individual members` houses and photos of these actions photographed and shared.
But there is also freedom within the restrictions. Above all, the freedom of Zoom. Abingdon Peace Group held its monthly (February) meeting on Zoom to share what could be done individually or as a group, to move the British Government’s position (or lack of) on the TPNW. Thanks to Zoom, Bruce Kent was able to join and inspire us, the journalist John Gittings, representatives of our sister Peace group in Abingdon, Virginia, USA and activists from other CND groups. New links were formed and ideas shared, all only possible through this recent gift of Zoom. We could encourage each other, individually, to write to our own Banks etc. to challenge their policies in the light of the now – illegality of nuclear weapons. We could individually write to our Anglican and Catholic faith leaders thanking them for their strongly – worded support of the TPNW and to thank our MP if he/she had signed the EDM 1072 or to urge them to do so etc.
All these are actions that in the restrictions of lockdown we might have more time to do. Restrictions and freedom –both are opportunities for campaigning to be seized!