As the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘terror of war’ takes in more victims we pray ever more deeply for peace and the courage to make peace and say ‘No’ to our own weapons of mass destruction.
It seems our efforts during Ash Wednesday and Lent take on a greater significance every year. We try to expand this witness every year but that is not possible without more people taking that extra step towards resistance. A leaflet is in preparation for this year’s event, which will list areas other than London, like Leeds, Derby and Liverpool. So far, confirmed out-of-London actions are:
Newcastle City Centre. Christine Wickens; Tel: 0191 281 4168
Cambridge: Stewart Hemsley; email@example.com
If you can organise a vigil or possibly resistance for Ash Wednesday (9 February 2005) or some day during Lent or need some help to do so, let us know. Join us where and when you can. The London liturgy will begin at 3 pm, in Embankment Gardens, off Horseguards avenue, SW1. If you would like to participate in civil disobedience get in touch with one of the names on the leaflet or contact us for a meeting in London on 12 January.
There is growing menace and tragedy for so many people, but there are signs of hope too, even if not fully realised. We think of Mordechai Vanunu’s release from prison after 18 years. Very much unbroken and still committed to peace work and against nuclear weapons, his endurance and humanity have prevailed against the harshest of treatments. He is an inspiration to all of us to keep on keeping on. Carmel attended his release and writes (below) of her time there. His journey to freedom is not yet complete as he is still confined to Israel, so the struggle continues in so many ways.
We wish you and your loved ones a joyous and holy Christmas. May the light of peace shine ever brighter in 2005!
Yours in solidarity
Dan and Carmel Martin
‘Mordechai Vanunu is the most significant man to walk out of prison since Nelson Mandela’
A Week In Israel: April 2004
(Below is one excerpt from a much longer account of Carmel’s journey, the time outside Ashkelon Prison just before Mordechai’s release. If you donated towards her travel expenses we should have enclosed the full article. Please let us know if it is missing. Of course, the article is available to anyone on request.)
…We vigiled outside the prison on Tuesday, the day before the expected release and on the morning of his release, from about 8 a.m. As the time of release came closer, the media, the crowds and the intensity multiplied. The hostility was electric, placards were burnt, arguments provoked, abuse shouted. I felt threatened, but in my ignorance of the language should have felt terrified. I did not know what was being chanted.
One vociferous protagonist looked at me and said in a threatening way, ‘You are very fragile’. ‘Yes, we are all fragile,’ I quipped. He passed along the barrier, which separated us to continue the confrontation. The police stood by, being little more than spectators.
Ben, a member of the delegation, played his trumpet and sounded above the throng ‘Joshua at the battle of Jericho and the walls come tumbling down’. The music was a balm of healing peace which abated the swelling potential for violence.
The situation resembled being at sea, as the swell of abuse rose, we sang peace, shalom, the angry wave subsided.
I am convinced that our non-violent presence at the gate of Ashkelon Prison on April 21st not only enabled Mordechai Vanunu to be released, it actively prevented a riot from erupting.
At the time of release we planned to set free 18 white doves to symbolise each one of the eighteen years of imprisonment. They were released amid a throng of reporters taking photographs, filming and confusion. One flew free and entered the prison.
I moved away from the enclosed pen to form a protective ring around Mordechai should he decide to walk out to greet supporters, as he so badly wanted to do.
The pigeon flew out of the prison moments before Mordechai emerged through the blue prison gates in his brother’s car with his hand pressed against the car window, in a gesture of unbending defiance, reminiscent of his capture. Hostile crowds gave chase, shouted, banged on the roof of the car, threw their chilling blackened roses, symbols of death to Mordechai.
I did not expect to see him again.
The crowd became increasingly hostile. We gathered together and made our way back to the coaches. Eggs were thrown, stones too–we were very fragile…
Carmel Martin June 2004
Fighting the Lamb’s War: Skirmishes with the American Empire,
The autobiography of Philip Berrigan
By Philip Berrigan with Fred Wilcox
Introduction by David Dellinger, pp 226
Readers will know that Philip Berrigan died 6 December 2002. This autobiography, written in 1996, covers his time as a proud warrior for the empire in World War II to be one of its fiercest non-violent adversaries. I look forward to reading it so this is not a review.
But to quote from Walter Wink, author of Engaging the Powers: ‘Few nations in history have had a prophet of Phil Berrigan’s stature. With iron intransigency he has stood in the breach leading to nuclear omnicide. The state has tried to quash his witness time after time: arrests, lockups, long sentences, all the paraphernalia of intimidation. Why doesn’t it work? What enables this jack-in-the-box prophet to pop up, again and again? Find out. Read this book.’ To read this book, send a £12 cheque (this includes p&p) payable to ‘Dan Martin’ to the CPA address.
2 October 2004, Greenham Common
A commemoration of the life and witness of Philip Berrigan
For this gathering, spearheaded by Sarah Hipperson, we were very pleased to welcome to this country and to the Greenham Common Memorial Site Frida Berrigan, the daughter of Philip. She spoke movingly and encouragingly of her father, his peace work and Christian witness. Her complete text is at www.paxchristi.org.uk/events along with some nice pictures. Ourselves, Pax Christi, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and Christian CND co-sponsored the event.
Mordechai Vanunu protest at Israeli Embassy
On 30 September 1986, agents of the Israeli state kidnapped Mordechai Vanunu from Rome. After 18 years in prison he was released on 21 April but is still prevented from leaving the country by the Israeli government. To protest this ongoing oppression, on 30 September this year, Dan, Ernest Rodker, David Polden, Adeline O’Keeffe, Angela Broome, Hope Liebersohn, as members of the Campaign to free Vanunu and for a Nuclear Free Middle East, chained themselves to the gates of the Israeli Embassy. We then put on masks depicting the face of Mordechai. We wore T-shirts with the simple message: Let Vanunu Go!
Vanunu has served his full sentence; he is not charged with any new offence and yet he is not a free man and he continues to be treated like a criminal. His life is also in danger, from far-right groups, as shown by the many death threats made against him.
The use of chains at the Israeli Embassy symbolizes the restrictions imposed on Mordechai by the Israeli government. Every day that Mordechai Vanunu is denied full rights of citizenship is a day of danger for him and a day of shame for the Israeli government.
As of this writing the harsh restrictions remain so the campaign and protest continues. For more information and a great picture (!) log onto www.vanunu.co.uk/news.