We invite you to join us at Bow street court, Saturday, 10 June, 1 pm for a few prayers before Ray and Dan face the magistrate again. Having been found guilty of ‘criminal damage’ on 30 March they were ordered to pay £239 and £339, respectively. A report on the trial will be in the next mailing. Because neither have paid the money the hearing on 10 June will decide whether to send them to prison, or send in the bailiffs.
Thank you for your support;
in peace and solidarity,
Catholic Peace Action
Ray Towey, Dan and Cannel Martin, Pat Gaffney, Sarah Hipperson
Reflections On The Ash Wednesday Act Of Witness And Repentance, 1995
by Richard Solly
Ash Wednesday was cold and blustery. I felt physically uncomfortable in Embankment Gardens and along by the Ministry of Defence. I felt conspicuous as well, especially when some of the Ministry’s younger employees jeered at us by singing Christmas carols and yelling “Repent! Repent!”
But I thought back to other Ash Wednesdays which I had spent elsewhere, in cosy churches where repentance seemed easier and shallower. One year, the parish priest told us that this life is all about preparing for the next. And I thought: No! This life (this earth, this blue sky, ‘this green grass, these spring flowers, this birdsong, this human laughter, these amorous embraces) is not a celestial service area through which we are supposed to hurry doggedly on our way to somewhere else. It is the raw material of the paradise that once was and that could be still if we would let it be. I felt so disgusted, I nearly walked out. Now, some years later, I was standing again at a place where work is being done to send us all more swiftly to the next world, and our purpose was to affirm the value of the one we’ve got, and I was glad to be there, and our repentance seemed more real and meaningful.
Repentance can seem cheap in our society because we have trivialised and individualised sin. The ancient Hebrews went in for collective acts of repentance because they had keen sense of collective sin. We are members of a people which, as a people, has broken its relationship with God.
I think that there are many ways in which we, as contemporary society, break our relationship with God. For me, the ones that stand out in starkest relief are the ones that relate most closely to the work that I do with refugees, indigenous peoples and the planet’s health. We imprison people seeking political asylum; we construct legal walls around our country to keep out migrants; we tolerate increasing numbers of racist attacks on our streets. We build more and more roads, raping our sacred mother earth and fouling the air with car exhaust fumes; we do nothing to reduce our criminal consumption of energy, wasting the planet and bankrupting the next generation.
The epicentres of any of these evils — the Home Office, the Ministry of Transport, the M11 extension building site, the Immigration Service Enforcement Office — would all be appropriate sites for an Ash Wednesday service of repentance and resistance.
But there can scarcely be a more appropriate place for such acts than the Ministry of “Defence”. This links right in with all my work. The uranium mining industry, the foundation of the global nuclear deterrent, lays waste the earth (the half-life of some of a uranium mine’s radioactive wastes is 245,000 years) and violates indigenous people’s land lights. The British air force practices low-level flying on Innu indigenous territory in Nitassinan [in Canada]. The arms trade, sustained by corporate welfare handouts from the British tax-payer, creates many of the situations from which refugees are forced to flee. And now that the Cold War is over, the “enemy” against whom our missiles are directed is surely the two-thirds world poor.
I am a coward. I watched as others carried out their acts of prophetic symbolism, marking the Ministry’s walls with charcoal, surprised that the security men were caught off guard (are they not used to this by now?). I felt disturbed by the readings from the Book of the Apocalypse, because I dislike that book intensely, rendered immune to its charms by North American Fundamentalists who beat people round the head with it. I don’t want an apocalypse and I don’t want a god who plans one for us. Let that god take his apocalypse elsewhere and leave us with our bluebells and hawthorn blossom. But that’s not the point: the apocalypse we face is one of our own making, not of God’s, and the purpose of our Ash Wednesday act of witness and repentance was to help prevent it.
Oh! May life and sanity prevail at last, so that there will be no further need for these prophetic gatherings, and we can all go walking in the woods or by the seaside in a peaceful world where no one is afraid! This life is the raw material of the paradise that once was and that could be still if we would let it be.
Homily, Ash Wednesday, 1995
By Sarah Hipperson
How does it help, my brothers when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation? If one of the brothers and sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is faith? In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead.
James 2.•14-17, 26.
The clear message indicated in James 2:14-26 appears to be saying that in any given situation requiring a declaration of faith it is necessary to affirm and support it with action.
Each time I come to the Ministry of Defence I am aware of the immense power generated by the sheer size of the building, the sense of authority it gives off and most importantly, the undisguised challenge it makes to God and His Kingdom, by the insistence on having the tight to own nuclear weapons of mass destruction and to a defence policy that threatens to use them.
A great number of people have difficulty acknowledging this as a truth. Denial and the burying of this as a truth have allowed an insidious apathy to develop and undermine a previously committed peace movement to lose its voice of protest.
We appear to have slipped too easily from expressing our objection to cruise missiles now removed — to an acceptance of a Trident submarine, roaming the ocean armed with 16 missiles each having the explosive power of 80 Hiroshima bombs that can wipe out a whole continent and kill 200 million people, and dangerously powered by a nuclear reactor.
This Trident submarine with all its demonic, genocidal, technology designed to be used against human beings, has been fully operational for months in the ocean, practising its full range of destructive killing skill, without any collective outcry or outrage.
I am reminded of the silence that prevailed when the genocidal policy of extermination became a reality against the Jewish people in Europe during World War 2. This failure to respond to genocidal policies that end in crimes against God and humanity brings shame on us all.
If we are prepared to take the message contained in James 2 and apply it to the sinful condition of Her Majesty’s Government’s behaviour, in owning these weapons, we are compelled to make ourselves aware of the full implication of our defence policy and the challenge that it makes to the power of God, our creator, the designer and maker of the earth, and to His beloved son Jesus, who bequeathed to us all the vision of a non-violent world as an alternative way of living, by his life, his teaching and his death.
is a triumph of evil
We must do more than denounce. We must make a choice. Will we accept the destructive evil power that the Ministry of Defence relies on or will we affirm our faith with action and create God’s non-violent Kingdom on this earth in this nuclear age?
I believe that each generation is called upon to resist the abuse of power and not to be encompassed by it. Trident unchallenged is a triumph of evil. We are called upon, as Christians, to declare through our faith and action that God is Lord of all, including those who plan genocide and those who design the weapons.
In 1983 I read in Jim Douglass’s book Lightning East To West that we were the first generation to live in the ‘End Time’; that the first nuclear explosion furnished humanity with the means of destroying the planet and all means of sustaining life. I keep that thought with me daily. While at the same time I believe that we continue to live by faith, by living wholesome lives: having babies, digging gardens and resisting.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life that you and your descendants may live. (Duet. 30:19-29)
(On 14 May, Sarah and four other women cut and removed a portion of fence around Aldermaston, where the warhead components for Trident are produced. They were held for six hours and charged with criminal damage.)
Six Months for Chris Cole
On 7 April 1995, Chris Cole was summonsed to the High Court for contempt of court. He was charged with violating his injunction of last July which forbade Chris from trespassing or inciting others to trespass on British Aerospace (BAe) property. The Court heard how Chris had done exactly that on at least three occasions.
Chris did not deny his activity but in his statement (below) informed the Court of his motivations. The Judge ordered a custodial sentence of six months for each violation of the injunction to run concurrently. After the Judge pronounced sentence Chris turned round to his supporters, waved, and said, ‘You know what you have to do.’ [i.e. continue the Campaign]
Chris is to serve half that time. His Prison address: Chris Cole, (PB 0538), HMP Pentonville, Caledonian Road, London N7 8TT. He is allowed visits every day but Sunday. To arrange a visit you must ring first…Even after his time is served, the injunction remains in effect ‘forever’.
Chris’s Statement to the Court
I have been summonsed here today to answer why I should not be imprisoned for breaching the injunction imposed on me last July. I do not deny being on BAe property on November 12th last year or on January 24th 1995]. Nor do I deny writing the article entitled ‘Call 10 Action’ which is also the subject of this hearing. I would, however, like to attempt to explain my conduct.
As Mr. Boyd [the plaintiffs banister] has outlined, my concern about British Aerospace goes back several years, 10 1988 in fact when I first discovered BAe and its horrendous work. I won’t try your patience by going into details of specific weapons systems or specific corruption allegations or specific statistics detailing deaths and destruction. Suffice to say perhaps that BAe is Europe’s largest arms dealer, supplying genocidal regimes like Indonesia and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia with the means to can-y out their crimes.
So I, along with many others, have tried to call BAe to account for its criminal activity. I don’t use that word – criminal – lightly. I believe very strongly that BAe are engaged in great Crimes, assisting others to commit murder purely for profit. So I try both to prevent that activity and to draw attention to what is going on.
I have undertaken many different methods to try to achieve this aim. Writing to the company, meeting with directors, talking to and leafleting the workers, researching their work in great depth, praying, fasting, civil disobedience, informing people through talks and writing, etc. etc.
And because of this work I’d like to emphasise how much responsibility I feel about what happens at BAe sites. Once I became involved, once I knew about what was going on, I couldn’t simply walk away because that would make me part of the problem. Once you know something wrong is happening you cannot simply walk away and forget. As someone once said, ‘For evil to triumph all that is needed is that good people do nothing.’
Obviously, the imposition of an injunction gave me great pause for thought. It upped the ante, if you like. The consequences of acting were now much more serious, for example than possibility of imprisonment for relatively minor protests. But of course, the seriousness of the other side did not decrease. BAe continues to fuel and profit from wars, continues with manufacturing deadly equipment, continues to be involved in dirty dealings and corruption. And so the two sides have to be weighed up, and considered seriously, which I did. The seriousness and the consequences of breaking the injunction must be weighed against the seriousness and the consequences of not breaking the injunction, of allowing things to remain as they are, and choices made. As a Christian I am given very clear instructions about choices to be made. ‘Choose life,’ say the scriptures, ‘So that you and your children may live.’ So I opt for life and against death.
This weekend sees the fiftieth anniversary of the execution by the Nazis of the German priest and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for his resistance to the war. Bonhoeffer wrote that it is our task as Christians to ‘not only bind up the victims beneath the wheel, but also to put a spoke in that wheel.’ I honestly cannot see how I can put a spoke in the wheel that is BAe, which grinds over the poor in the third world to put profits in the pockets of shareholders in Britain, by staying outside their fence — and within the law.
And so I decided to act accordingly by going to BAe with around fifty others on November 12th, the third anniversary of the massacre of more than 250 East Timorese by the Indonesian military. The very same people to who BAe are supplying more weapons. I broke the injunction symbolically by going onto a car park and burning a small piece of paper which had the name of Abel Araujo on it. It is a Timorese custom to remember the dead in that way. I also wrote the article entitled, ‘Call to Action’, which was in the briefing which accompanied the demonstration. We try very hard to ensure that no one is hurt or injured on these demonstrations by training and briefing people.
Bonhoeffer wrote that it is our task as Christians to ‘not only bind up the victims beneath the wheel, but also to put a spoke in that wheel.’
In January, I along with three other defendants were found ‘not guilty’ at Preston Crown Court (though you might not think so from the Plaintiffs’ description). The following day we went back to BAe Warton to place ourselves on the runway, again to interrupt BAe’s murderous work. We were there for about 10 or 15 minutes, or 20-25 minutes as the plaintiffs’ witnesses testified to, and then left when asked.
Again a symbolic action. And so that brings me here. I think it should be noted that the injunction was asked for by the plaintiffs in response to disarmament actions for which I was convicted of criminal damage. These breaches are not of that order. I ask you also to note the unwarranted delay of the plaintiffs in bringing this action — five months since the November demonstration and two-and-half months since the most recent.
I hope that I have communicated to you the reasons why I and many others feel that we must interrupt BAe’s work. It’s not for personal gain in any way. We act nonviolently on behalf of BAe’s victims, perhaps clumsily, but certainly honestly and sincerely.
We invite you to participate in our next Lenten witness at the MoD.
As in the first few years we will be starting the Liturgy outside. Church premises are not as available this year due to cost or timing.
But never mind, a witness will be made and Lent will be observed in a matter appropriate for a nuclear weapons state.
Join us in the Embankment Gardens (between Embankment Station and the MoD) at 12:30, on Ash Wednesday, 1 March. Sarah Hipperson will give a few good words by way of a homily.
So far only Dan and Pat will be marking the building. Pat once and Dan several times during Lent; we could use some company! How about giving it a go? Your friends and family will thank you for doing so, if not right away then eventually. If you would like to discuss the possibility of marking the MoD come to the preparation meeting on…
The Bailiffs have not knocked on the door of the Martins, so they wait with some vigilance and try to get on with their lives.
Contact us for details of Bible study and reflection evenings.
Yours in peace
Dan and Carmel Martin, Pat Gaffney, Sarah Hipperson, and Ray Towey
A Time for ‘Foolishness’
A Return visit to NATO Headquarters, Northwood,
after 11 years
By Sarah Hipperson
On 5th January 1983 a large group of London-based Christians, gathered opposite the NATO Headquarters on the Watford Road, Northwood, to take part in a ‘Prayer and Liturgy service, and to hand out leaflets calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, especially the planned siting of Cruise missiles on Greenham Common. (The Missiles arrived on 14 November 1983 and after 7 1/2 years of resistance were removed under the I.N.F. Treaty.)
The gathering was called by Catholic Peace Action, a newly formed group of Catholics, who were greatly concerned that the hierarchy of the Church was not speaking out decisively against the policy of ‘Nuclear Deterrence’, which we believed to be incompatible with the will of God. Almost 12 years on we continue to resist this policy.
We had been drawn to the existence of the NATO base during the Falklands War; it was from here, that the sinking of the Belgrano warship was ordered.
I recall how nervous I felt at the thought of such a public expression of our rejection of nuclear weapons, and during the ‘Intercessional Prayers’ I felt the need to ask for guidance and strength, so that I would not mind looking ‘foolish’ on this journey of resistance on which we had embarked.
I felt that within certain quarters of the Church and the Christian Peace Movement we would not be understood. And believing that this was what it would take to really challenge the evil of nuclear weapons, I instinctively knew I would have to overcome my inclination to self-consciousness. Over the years I have been grateful for the insight that was revealed to me on that important day. On each occasion when called upon to take non-violent direct action, I try to remind myself of that prayer, and of how the answer to that prayer has sustained me.
On the 19th of November 1994 I returned to the NATO base, this time with six women from the Women’s Peace Camp on Greenham Common. We entered the base through the fence to protest against the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill and, inspite of this added threat to our work, to continue our commitment to non-violent resistance to the Trident programme.
As soon as we were all safely through the fence we unfurled our banners and started singing to alert the military of our presence. We were aware that those who guarded the base were armed with guns, so we wanted to create a calm, non-violent atmosphere, and we were successful. After a short walk we met a naval officer who stopped to ask, “Is this a joke?” We answered, ‘No’ and walked on. We then saw a building marked with an imposing sign saying ‘Command Centre’ and quickly walked towards it; just managing to enter as the heavy metal gate closed across the entrance. We found ourselves in the heart of the operations room where the plotting and planning takes place for the Trident Nuclear submarine system. We announced calmly that we were from the “Women’s Peace Camp’, that we were non-violent and that they had nothing to fear from our presence. One of our banners confirmed these messages.
There was only short, initial period of confusion caused by a young Marine Soldier screaming at us to get out and inciting his guard dog to attack us. Having been in this situation on other occasions with the military, through our experience at Greenham, we brought calmness to the dog and told the soldier to behave. The sergeant in charge supported our efforts to calm things down, and we settled in to do our work of disrupting and undermining the preparations for mass murder carried out in this building. We remained there for more than 1 1/2 hours. For all that time the military work stopped and the soldiers listened to our singing and the facts about the destructiveness of Trident. I believe that the power element within this building was altered, even if only for the time we spent there. The power of non-violence was palpable. I believe that we left behind in that room the essence of that power.
When the police arrived, accompanied by some high ranking military personnel, we were in the middle of a picnic spread; after singing for more that an hour we were hungry and in need of a break. The dog had very quickly become friendly and was looking longingly at us and our food. I remember thinking that that poor creature would rather be going off with us than being left under the control of the soldier, who demands behaviour determined by the military mind, obsessed with security.
We were not charged, this no doubt, as a result of the decision not to expose the military personnel to the embarrassment of revealing in open court that their security had been breached by non-violent women. We left as we had arrived, singing and displaying our banners but with an audience this time made up of very surprised members of Her Majesty’s Forces.
Remembrance Day 1994
By Pat Gaffney
Shortly before 1l.00 a.m. on Friday 11th November, a small group of us gathered at the MoD, with our placards, bearing such messages as No More War Graves, “Choose Life, No to Trident,” to keep watch, pray and leaflet in memory of all those who have died in wars. Our leaflet, a copy of which is enclosed with this newsletter, offered accounts of other, nonviolent ways of confronting and resisting evil as a positive way of remembering the dead and the living, a way which we believe to be consistent with the Gospels.
This time we were joined by Clare (8) and Matthew (5) Martin and for me, their presence brought with it a new urgency and clarity for being there on that day. Clare and Matthew came to stand with me and helped to hold the placards I was carrying. After a few minutes the questions started to come. “What is Trident”? “Well, it is a special kind of nuclear weapon”, “What is a nuclear weapon”?. “A very powerful weapon that can do a lot of damage to people”. “Why not just say nuclear weapon then”? “Well, because this one, Trident, is being built by our country and we are asking them to stop building it.”
These came from Clare before she offered to help give out leaflets to passers-by. Then Matthew started: “What does it say on your poster Pat?” “No more war graves.” “What’s a grave?” “When people die and we bury them the hole we put them into is called a grave.” “What is a war grave?” “In some wars, when soldiers die, they are put graves too”.
“What is war”. “Sometimes people or countries disagree about something, or one person or country wants something that another has and they fight about it. When a lot of people fight and are killed we call it war”. “Who gets killed?” “Well sometimes soldiers but often it is ordinary people, poor people.” “But I thought we were supposed to help the poor people.”
At this moment a number of workers came down the steps of the building and how I wished they could have been frozen in time for a few moments to listen in to this conversation. How might they have responded to them? The conversation ended at this point but I had already been challenged by the children. Their questions called me to account for the world we live in. This occasion has raised even more questions for me, some of which I offer here. Perhaps they will trigger some thoughts from you too which you may want to share with us.
1995 is a year of anniversaries. The liberation of the concentration camps, the ending of World War II, the first use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the opening of the Nuremberg
Tribunal and so on. These are events which are loaded in every sense of the word. They mark colossal events in modern history and they have coloured and influenced much of what has
happened since 1945. They are events which have prompted both the military/state and the peace movement to say ‘never again’, but to act on that commitment in very different ways. How these events are presented to our children in the coming year is going to be important. Whose story will be told, whose interests presented and protected?
Like Clare and Matthew, there are thousands of children in this country who do not know what nuclear weapons are. They do not know about war graves or about the Second World War, (and it is not just small children, many adolescents have no sense of what happened in 1945, talk about Hiroshima or Nagasaki or Death Camps and they look back at you blankly.) Do we let things ride and wait for questions to be asked like those of Clare and Matthew? Do we take an initiative and openly talk about the history of our time, its wars, death, suffering? Children cannot be ignorant of the reality of war today — so much comes to them through the television, but what sense do they have of past events that are to be remembered this year? It is natural that we want to protect children from things which disturb and distress them – in a sense it is their innocence and happiness that gives us jaundiced adults a sense of hope for the future. But we are a people of faith, who constantly recall a life that was full of questions, contradictions, suffering and challenge – all of which are also calling us to account for the way we live, just as the chidren’s questions had done. Do we welcome questions or do we want a quiet uncomplicated life?
Today’s newspaper carried a story about young children from German families being afraid to go to school because they were being called Nazis. Recently I heard that some groups in America were trying to develop a commemorative stamp that showed the bombing of Hiroshima as a symbol of victory of Japan — thankfully the idea was rejected. Do we want our children to ‘learn’ enmity towards whole nations people not from any experience they may have had themselves but through what they have heard or been taught? Do we want our children to believe that the best way of challenging wrong-doing or evil in the world is by building and using bigger and more horrific weapons? The challenge is ours. Do we have other stories to tell and actions to recall that are both faithful to all those whose lives have been lost in warfare and faithful to Jesus who invites us to live by the nonviolent message of the Gospel?
(Below is one of the leaflets handed out at the MoD)
A Viable Alternative to War
Jesus calls us to non-violent, active opposition to evil. Living by faith means believing that there is no situation in which it is impossible to be faithful to the gospel and the gospel is non-violent.
Jesus said, Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Mt. 26:52) Non-
violence should not be confused with passivity–it requires a commitment to resist evil, an acceptance of the consequences and sacrifice.
Here is an incomplete list of non-violent achievements that brought forth change for the better to oppressed people:
Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign for independence of India;
Martin Luther King, jr. ‘s, Civil Rights struggle;
Caesar Chavez and the Farm Workers of the U.S.A.;
South African Anti-apartheid movements;
Chilean urban slum dwellers;
Mothers of the Disappeared;
Solidarity in Poland,
The ousting of dictators like Marcos in the Philippines and Erich Honecker in East Germany;
The Collapse of the Soviet Empire;
Peace protesters in Britain to rid this country of cruise missiles, particularly Greenham Women and Catholic Peace Action members and others who made it known publicly their commitment to non-violent direct action and served time in prison as a consequence.
The Works of Mercy
To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To visit the imprisoned To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick
To bury the dead.
For the true children of God, mercy is a duty.
A clean heart create in me O God.
An African Woman Weeps
By Ray Towey
I knew her name was Theresa. She was an African woman waiting for an operation in an African hospital and as the patients were so many she would have to be postponed for another day or week or perhaps month or months. Such postponements are commonplace and the patients usually quietly wrap their covering sheets around themselves pick up their medical records and make their way back to the wards. Disappointed, as most patients are when this happens, they are usually hopeful because to have got at least this far means that ultimately they will get their operation.
But for Theresa this day was different. She had lost hope and she began to cry in way that I had never seen an African woman cry before. As I passed by her I could see the tears just roll down her cheeks as she sat quietly and waited resigned and dignified. I had seen and heard many women cry in Africa. When the children die the mothers weep and wail and throw themselves on the floor in a way that is very disturbing but Theresa`s tears were of a different kind and I was perplexed and curious.
From her medical history I could easily work out a large part of her story. She was probably from a remote part of East Africa living in a village where adequate medical care has never existed for many diseases. Married at a young age her pregnancy and labour would have been very poorly managed. When she went into labour and could not deliver her child, many hours of obstructed labour followed before some form of delivery, most likely of a dead baby, was carried out. By that time the pressure of the baby’s head on the mother’s pelvis had damaged her bladder so badly that now she leaked urine continuously. She now had a vesicoavaginal fistula that only delicate surgery by the African surgeons could cure.
In some ways she was a fortunate woman. She had not died in obstructed labour as so many thousands of women do in Africa. Eventually she had managed to find the means to travel perhaps over one hundred miles to our hospital where she was now waiting for some chance of cure. Today for some reason Theresa had lost hope and the tears quietly rolled down her cheeks but I could not see why on this day she should be so disturbed.
I called one of the nurses over to translate for me and to find some explanation for her weeping. The nurse explained that Theresa knew that the next day there was to be a plan by the government to start charging fees for operations. She was a poor woman without money. She now felt that as her operation had been postponed this day then she had lost hope of a cure. All her previous waiting would be in vain and hence the tears.
Under pressure of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank many powerless African governments have been forced to introduce cuts in health care and education and introduce charges for treatment. Theresa`s tears that day were the human consequences of these policies. No doubt there are many people like Theresa in Africa. The poorest of the poor are bearing a burden with their lives for the policies of the banks. The debt repayments, and also the arms trade and the unjust trade policies rob Africa of any economic progress. A new brutal and insidious slavery is being perpetuated.
(Ray Towey is a member of the Volunteer Missionary Movement and recently returned from East Africa as a missionary doctor.)