Tag Archives: Ray Towey

What the Catholic Church Teaches on Nuclear Weapons

Pope Francis, Hiroshima 2019

Catholic Peace Action since 1982 has advocated civil disobedience against nuclear weapons, encouraged others to do so and by its very name claimed this to be a consistent and defendable position as Catholics in good standing in a nuclear weapons state. It is probably therefore appropriate at some stage to take an overview of what the Catholic Church officially teaches regarding nuclear weapons. For Catholics the foundation of their faith is in the bible and in the teaching of the Church through its centuries of history. Personal conscience is also very important in individual decision making for Catholics but the Church teaches that personal conscience must be informed and rooted in the bible and in the official teaching of the Church.

The word atomic weapon can be found in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church and the relevant paragraph is 2314 and its support is reference 109, Gaudium et Spes a document of Vatican II 1965. All these documents can be freely downloaded from the internet.

“Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”(109 Gaudium et Spes)

“A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes.

The Catholic Church has always been consistent that there can be no moral case for the actual use of a weapon of mass destruction as it is indiscriminate. On this basis the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Catholic teaching are indefensible.

These writings however did not close the discussion as it was argued by many leading Catholics that the concept of nuclear deterrence would not only prevent the use of nuclear weapons but even prevent war itself. A balance of terror they argued would at the height of the Cold War preserve peace if both sides had nuclear arsenals. Pope St.John Paul II gave some support for this position when he wrote in 1982 to the United Nations,

“in current conditions deterrence based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable.”

For Catholics in a nuclear weapons state this was a very interesting time with debate for and against the possession of nuclear weapons. These debates and exchanges continued for many years with respect shown on all sides.

The Scottish Catholic Bishops in 1982 also made a statement,

“If it is immoral to use these (nuclear) weapons it is immoral to threaten their use”

For many years the official position of the Catholic Church remained that of Pope St.John Paul II but the discussions continued and as time progressed the conditional acceptance of nuclear deterrence became more difficult to sustain as it became more evident the condition of progressive disarmament was not happening.

In 2005 Archbishop Migliore, the then observer of the Holy See to the United Nations wrote,

“The time has gone for finding ways to a balance in terror, the time has come to re-examine the whole strategy of nuclear deterrence…it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament.”

In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI in his address on World Peace Day said,

“What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious”

In 2011 Archbishop Francis Chullikatt the then current Holy See’s observer at the United Nations reviewed the Church’s teaching at a meeting in the USA commenting and quoting from Church teaching,

“Today, more and more people are convinced that nuclear deterrence is not a viable means of providing security. If some nations can continue to claim the right to possess nuclear weapons, then other states will claim that right as well. There can be no privileged position whereby some states can rely on nuclear weapons while simultaneously denying that same right to other states. Such an unbalanced position is unsustainable.”

“The Holy See has never countenanced nuclear deterrence as a permanent measure, nor does it today when it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament.

“Maintaining nuclear deterrence into the 21st century will not aid but impede peace. Nuclear deterrence prevents genuine nuclear disarmament. It maintains an unacceptable hegemony over non-nuclear development for the poorest half of the world’s population. It is a fundamental obstacle to achieving a new age of global security.

“Nuclear weapons, aptly described as the ‘ultimate evil’, are still possessed by the most powerful States which refuse to let them go…….. No weapon so threatens the longed-for peace of the 21st century as the nuclear.”

Pope Francis was elected in 2013 and he has addressed the issue of nuclear weapons. In 2019 in Hiroshima he said:

“The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.”

During an inflight press conference aboard the plane bringing back Pope Francis from Japan in 2019 he is reported to have said,

“The use of nuclear weapons is immoral which is why it must be added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not only their use but also possessing them: because an accident or the madness of some government leader, one person’s madness can destroy humanity.

It is clear that the Catholic Church’s official teaching on nuclear weapons has moved on from 1982.

Ray Towey

Dorothy Day and Abortion

I feel that, as in the time of the Desert Fathers, the young are fleeing the cities–wandering over the face of the land, living after a fashion in voluntary poverty and manual labor, seeming to be inactive in the “peace movement.” I know they are still a part of it–just as Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers’ Movement is also part of it, committed to non-violence, even while they resist, fighting for their lives and their families’ lives. (They, together with the blacks, feel and have stated this, that birth control and abortion are genocide.)

I agree with them and say–make room for children, don’t do away with them. Up and down and on both sides of the Hudson River religious orders own thousands of acres of land, cultivated, landscaped, but not growing food for the hungry or founding villages for the families or schools for the children.

Dorothy Day Open Letter to Fr.Dan Berrigan On Pilgrimage 1972

It’s not often mentioned and perhaps not widely known that before her conversion Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, had an abortion. In her novel The Eleventh Virgin she describes her character having an abortion and then being deserted by her partner afterwards. This was indeed Dorothy Day’s own personal experience when 22 years old. She doubted that she would ever get pregnant again and she refers to this fear in her book, The Long Loneliness. Pelvic sepsis following this illegal and possibly unsterile procedure was not unusual and the consequent Fallopian tube obstruction could result in sterility. She rarely wrote about abortion but was profoundly remorseful of her lifestyle before her conversion. In the Long Loneliness she describes how very blessed she felt when in 1925 she realised that she had become pregnant with her partner Forster Batterham. One can only surmise how her faith journey was influenced by the remorse of her earlier abortion and her bliss at becoming pregnant again. This time this new life would be welcomed and baptised into the Catholic Church even if she was to lose the man she deeply loved.

Some might say what right have I have to even raise the issue of abortion because I am a man. We are all touched by human life but as a medical doctor and specialist anaesthetist I was particularly involved as I was asked to anaesthetise for abortions several times in my career and refused. I always noticed who was Catholic in the anaesthetic department by seeing who were claiming their legal right under the 1967 Abortion Act to be conscientious objectors. One colleague even said that he wished that he was Catholic so that he could refuse despite the fact that the legal right to refuse also applies to any person on simply conscience grounds. In my personal experience I don’t recall any other person refusing who wasn’t a Catholic. I should always be grateful to Cardinal Heenan who obtained that legal concession in 1967. When I hear criticisms of the institutional Church I thank God how its intervention in 1967 protected both my mind and soul.

Lenten marking of the MoD, at the entrance opposite Downing Street.

There are probably two reasons why I could never have been a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology. The first is that I don’t think I could have suffered well the severe sleep deprivation and secondly of how to negotiate the 1967 Abortion Act. As a young doctor with no friends in high places the last thing I needed was being a “troublesome” junior doctor with inconvenient scruples.

There are two Lenten witnesses I have tried do whenever possible in London. The first is the one that any follower of Dorothy Day would find not unusual. This is the marking of the Ministry of Defence building as a sign of Christian opposition to nuclear war preparations. Dorothy Day regularly did civil disobedience against the New York civil defence preparations for a potential nuclear attack. She viewed this as legitimising plans for nuclear war and opposed the nuclear arms race from 1945. As a consequence of this frequent witness she once spent time in jail. My second witness was praying at an abortion clinic which was usually until recently in Ealing London at the Marie Stopes clinic. Both require a commitment to non-violence.

Ealing, London, Marie Stopes abortion clinic

When planning to pray at Ealing I was pleased to be asked to not only sign an online promise of non-violence both verbal and physical before the witness at the abortion clinic but also asked to sign a hard copy when I arrived. The anti-abortionists prayed the Rosary which I joined and I saw no intimidation of the patients going into the clinic. Their focus on the Rosary meant that there was little eye contact with the pro-abortion demonstrators which removed any spirit of judgement and antagonism and their prayer was combined with practical support for those women who decide to change their decision. However since 2018 anyone praying at this abortion clinic now risks arrest as the local council have instituted what is a virtual no praying zone around this clinic.

Would Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin have approved of my witness for peace at the Ministry of Defence? Would they have approved my witness for life at the abortion clinic? Would they see the connection between the two at a time when over 180,000 abortions are carried out in UK each year and when Parliament voted against a ban on sex selective abortion in 2015? Can you make a call to choose life in one issue and ignore the other?

The first century Bethlehem massacre of the innocents was then a gender discrimination against the male child whereas the global gender select abortion is now a discrimination against the female child. Academics can estimate the missing women globally when the gender balance in society is measured. One academic has made an estimate of 100 million missing women globally, mainly in Asia.

Ray Towey

Court Report: Independent Catholic News September 2012

3 activists who took part in actions at MoD

The three offered clear and moving accounts of their peace actions at the Ministry of Defence during Holy Week 2012 when they marked the building with blessed charcoal using words such as ‘Trident Crucifies the Poor’ and ‘Disarm Trident’. Reports from arresting officers were read out in court which affirmed that there actions had been
totally nonviolent and that they had not resisted arrest in any way. While not disputing the fact of their action, they all argued that they had lawful excuse and moral convictions for what they did.

Twenty-five supporters joined Dr Ray Towey, 68, Henrietta Cullinan, 50, and Katrina Alton , 44, for a time of prayer outside Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court today before a three-hour hearing which found them guilty of causing criminal damage.

Ray, Henrietta and Katrina explained the relevance of the time and symbols used: Lent, a time for reflection and repentance at both personal and community levels and charcoal, a known symbol of that repentance that is used within the Christian faith community. The protection of life and people was at the heart of their actions and they all stated that these were more important than property or buildings. Their intention in marking the Ministry of Defence building was to engage the Ministry and those who work there in critical reflection on the UK’s nuclear defence policy and the Trident programme in particular in order to change it and prevent nuclear weapons from ever being used.

Judge Susan Williams acknowledged her understanding of this in her questioning of Ray Towey, and again in her summing up saying that these were profound means used to highlight the folly of humankind.

The three, who defended themselves, were given substantial time to present their own evidence and outline why they did what they did. The Judge said that she needed a good amount of time to reflect on what she had heard and the legal implications and adjourned the hearing for almost two hours.

Before adjournment, Ray Towey made a short intervention inviting the Judge to discharge them and to stand outside the normal boundaries of the legal institution and set a precedent. On her return she gave a fulsome summary – showing that she had listened with great care to all that she had heard – but ultimately finding them guilty of criminal damage. They were each charged with paying £200 court costs. While the Ministry of Defence had put forward a claim for £400 cleaning costs the Judge refused to enforce this.

The three were given an absolute discharge. All of them made it clear that they could not in conscience pay the court costs.

Their action was supported by the London Catholic Worker, Catholic Peace Action and Pax Christi.

For Ray Towey the outcome of this trial would be finalised on 24 June 2014 when he was called to attend Camberwell Magistrates Court to explain why he had not paid the court £200 costs. He had during this time several letters from bailiffs requesting the money and he had replied that as a Christian to him nuclear weapons were immoral and that he could not in conscience pay the court as he considered his actions in 2012 justified and therefore he was not guilty. Usually this defence is not accepted and a prison sentence of about 7 days would be expected. The judge listened to his explanation and replied that she would not accept this refusal but would give him more time to pay. He asked her not to delay her judgement as he was not going to pay and he wished to resolve the issue that day. She told him to go away and consider payment. He therefore left the court disappointed that the issue still remained unresolved. As he was descending the stairs leading to the exit the Clerk of the Court called out to him to return to the court as there was now a possibility of another outcome which might be beneficial to him. On return to the court the Judge sentence him to one day in jail. A one day sentence means that he was confined to the court till the end of business that day. It is in effect a symbolic sentence which meant he had no longer any need of paying the costs and would be free that day to go home. Ray Towey thanked her when the court rose and went home as a free person.

Homily for Franz Jagerstatter Memorial Service

This was delivered as the homily on 9 August 2018 in the Crypt Chapel of Westminster Cathedral London by Ray Towey for the Franz Jagerstatter Memorial Service arranged by Pax Christi

The story is simple, a peasant farmer in Austria is conscripted to fight for Hitler, refuses claiming being a Catholic and being a soldier in Hitler’s army is incompatible so they kill him to preserve military morale. In 1943 German military morale was in serious jeopardy. The battle of Stalingrad had been lost.

The German state needed men at the eastern front. Franz was isolated in the Church, in the village, in his country. To his knowledge then no-one had taken a stand like this. I use the word peasant farmer purposefully not so often used now about Franz, to us it has negative connotations but the Gospel writer is clear about what is a negative:

I thank you Father Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to children. (Luke ch10: 21)

This Gospel passage is uneasy reading because ever since I entered formal education I have striven to be someone who is both wise and learned. To the Gospel writer that comfortable self-image or illusion was an obstacle that Franz did not have.

In 1982 I returned from 2 years in a mission hospital in Nigeria. The overwhelming experience of working as a doctor in Africa is watching helplessly the premature death of scores from diseases easily preventable by a little money or curable by modest means.

This remains the global injustice of our time, so the injustice of the Falklands invasion at that time was minor in comparison and I could see no need for further human sacrifice. There was enough premature death in the world, more than enough in Africa alone.

And so, the armada travelled to the South Atlantic to right the wrong bringing with it a military hospital well equipped and I thought why not just make a small detour and share a few drugs from the pharmacy, a few bottles from the blood bank, Nigeria is close by to the east. We won’t delay you long, but don’t forget Sierra Leone, Ghana, we have friends there too, and what harm if we do delay you long?

Even a child could see the need but the wise and learned had other plans.

There was worse to come. The cruise missiles in Greenham Common were an essential counter to the SS20s of the Soviets and the Pershing 2s in Europe would give us the superiority we needed to keep our Christian culture safe and the Church at the highest level then was ambiguous.

What was this doctrine of nuclear deterrence, a necessary modern moral relativism for the Church or a new heresy, is that too strong a word and who was for the burning? everyone? and so we asked, where do we stand and we made a stand and not like Franz, alone, but we were few. Like Dorothy Day we had the nerve to call ourselves Catholic and thereby Catholic Peace Action. We were non-violent but did not keep the law and counted jail time as a duty or was it a spiritual pride in the new indulgences? were we the orthodox or the heterodox? Time would tell.

We added our small voice to others in and out of the Church. We shared with a few of our own bishops but at the time like Franz were not affirmed and learnt how to be strangers in our communities, our Church and country which we loved. But let me not forget Bishop Gumbleton from Detroit and Pax Christi who wrote us a good character witness letter for our bad disobedient behaviour which we copied for the court, usually to no avail, so unlike Franz we were not alone but we were few.

Fr. Daniel Berrigan has a reflection on Franz written some years before Franz’s beatification:

“As for Franz he will not go away, he will not go away from the Church that sent him on his way alone.

His way, which should have been the way of the Church.

So he lingers half unwelcome……….”

After the war Franz’s name was added to the memorial in his parish cemetery of those who had died for Austria but it was secretly erased. For some in his village his name was most unwelcome.

In his own diocese of Linz 40 priests were sent to concentration camps and 11 died. In the Archdiocese of Vienna which was twice the size of Linz 9 priests were sent to concentration camps and 1 died. There was resistance in the Church to the Nazi regime but it was thin and patchy. One of his parish priests had been banned from the parish by the regime for delivering an anti-Nazi sermon and even he advised him accept the conscription, he saw his bishop who advised the same.

When the wise and learned advised him to fight for Hitler was he choosing the way of suicide? This was his terrible deep spiritual anguish.

When he was transferred to the Berlin prison he met with the prison chaplain who related to him the case of an Austrian priest Fr.Reinisch who had refused to take the oath to Hitler and was executed a year before. Fr.Reinisch had been conscripted to the medical corps but still refused the oath stating that he opposed the Nazi world view which had resulted in murder, the elimination of the mentally disabled, forced sterilisation, the illegal annexation of Austria. The chaplain relates that Franz breathed a sigh of relief and was greatly encouraged and said, “l can’t be on the wrong path after all, if even a priest has decided the same and has gone to his death for it then it’s all right for me to do it too.”

I think this was the first time he had heard of anyone refusing conscription for Christian reasons and it suggests that even at this late stage he was still in need of more support that his stand was correct and not a suicide.

After the war the search for justice began but there were to be dispensations, if you had the secrets of the VI and V2 rockets there was an amnesty. The learned and the wise needed you, and a new and comfortable life in the West or the East guaranteed. These wonderous Nazi indiscriminate weapons of terror had their uses. The VI became cruise missiles and the V2 ballistic missiles, just add a nuclear warhead when required.

And so… Coventry, Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki….we know who won the battles but who won the values?

In 1941 while doing his military service after his second call up Franz writes, “Ybbs is a beautiful town.. there’s quite a large mental asylum here, which used to be full of patients but now probably even the mad have become sane, because there are no longer very many of them in the asylum. My dear wife there must be some truth in what you told me once about what’s happening to these people.

Franz and Franziska Jagerstatter
Franz and Franziska Jagerstatter

In May 1943 Franziska writes to Franz of the sudden death of a disabled child who had been put in a home for the disabled. Hundreds of thousands of disabled children, psychiatric patients, mentally disabled adults, Downs syndrome children were killed during the war. Bishop von Galen of Munster was a vociferous opponent of this Action T4 euthanasia programme and was placed under virtual house arrest in 1941.

In Europe these days Downs syndrome is becoming a rarity. For them we have developed our own final solution.

And what of us? The state may not need us in uniform but it still needs our obedience or is it just our silence?

But now it will never be so hard because we have Franz. Thank you, Franz from the bottom of my heart for making my small journey clearer, less lonely, more loyal, more forgiving and with no place for bitterness.

Download this as a pdf

Newsletter February 2007

Dear Friend,

Apologies for not corresponding sooner, but we hope you will have a more than vague memory of the now traditional Ash Wednesday repentance and resistance demonstrations at the Ministry of Defence.

Ash Wednesday this year is 21 February 2007.

Along with Pax Christi, we invite you to join us at the Ministry of Defence in London to say NO, through prayer and symbolic actions of repentance, to nuclear war preparations and the replacement of Trident.  We will meet at 3.00pm in Embankment Gardens (nearest tube Embankment Station).

If you wish to take part in nonviolent direct action on the day, or indeed any other day during Lent, and so risk arrest, prior preparation is required so please contact us or Pax Christi (020 8203 4884;info@paxchristi.org.uk;www.paxchristi.org.uk).

Yours in the peace, and peacemaking-spirit, of Christ

Catholic Peace Action
Dan and Carmel Martin, and Pat Gaffney


The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (as distinct from individual Bishops) have finally issued a statement that gives me hope and encouragement for our peace work.  From their statement of Nov. 21, 2006 this gem of a sentence appears:

“Our judgment is that, by decommissioning its nuclear weapons, the UK now has a unique opportunity to offer the international community an approach to security and legitimate self-defense without the unconscionable threat of nuclear destruction.”

When I look for the meaning of the word ‘unconscionable’ at dictionary.com I find these results:

“Not guided by conscience; unscrupulous; not in accordance with what is just or reasonable: unconscionable behaviour; excessive; extortionate: an unconscionable profit.

“Not restrained by conscience; unscrupulous: unconscionable behaviour; Beyond prudence or reason; excessive: unconscionable spending.

“lacking a conscience; “a conscienceless villain”; “brash, unprincipled, and conscienceless”; “an unconscionable liar”

“Greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation; unreasonably unfair to one party, marked by oppression, or otherwise unacceptably offensive to public policy…”

What all the Bishops of this country now find ‘unconscionable’, the people of the church and this country must now make politically unacceptable and indeed impossible. 

Dan Martin

For the Record  —  Lent 2006

Sister Susan Clarkson, Lent 2006

From Ash Wednesday, 1 March to Wednesday of Holy Week, 12 April, the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, Central London, was the scene of many acts of resistance against nuclear war preparations of this Government.

During the six week period of Lent, the Building was marked with blessed charcoal on eight occasions.  The Markers, who risked arrest for each act of resistance, were Sr. Susan Clarkson, Fr Martin Newell and Dan Martin.  Friends saying prayers, holding banners and handing-out leaflets, supported them.

The repentance and resistance season for Christians began early in the morning.  The three, along with a few friends began with prayer and a blessing of the charcoal and ash   The blessing of the ash and charcoal was done by Fr John Concanon.  At the front entrance of the MoD, the three Markers wrote or attempted to write ‘Repent’ and ‘God says: No to new nuclear weapons’, ‘No to Trident’.  The police confiscated the charcoal and escorted them to the bottom of the stairs, where the group handed out leaflets to workers and passers-by and held a banner.  No arrests were made.

The largest of the Lent 2006 gatherings occurred later in the day on Ash Wednesday.  About 60-70 supporters gathered for a liturgy and supportive presence to marking that occurred earlier and was to take place again as an intrinsic part of the prayers for peace and communal repentance.

The process of marking our own foreheads with the ashes of repentance occurred on both occasions.  The participants acknowledge their own sin and complicity with the evil of nuclear weapons.  And, as in the morning, we then brought that same blessed ash and charcoal to the MoD to encourage repentance of and resistance to the nuclear weapon war preparations of this country.

This process, going on its 24th year, reflects the personal and social components of sin and echoes the Pope’s message of Ash Wednesday:

‘”Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). It is an invitation to make firm and confident adherence to the Gospel the foundation of personal and communal renewal.’

In the presence of the prayerful supporters and during the liturgy, the MoD was marked again with the words ‘Repent’.  No arrests were made; the prayers continued; the work for peace encouraged. 

During the Lenten witness the response from the staff was more extreme than usual.  Supporters came from London, Oxford and Kent. 


The reactions seemed were more extreme than in the past – both in support and in disagreement.

One called what we did ‘terrorism’.  This word was preceded by a few choice adjectives.

Another man in a naval uniform walked out the building and away from us then turned around.  He came up to Angela and Dan who were holding a banner and said: ‘I have something to say, I have something to say: I am a Christian and what you are doing is a disgrace to Christianity.’

Dan Martin, Lent 2006  

Another young man stopped before going into the building: ‘I agree with you that nuclear weapons are wrong but Jesus would not and did not break the law.’  Carmel replied: ‘You need to re-read your Bible.’

Many were genuinely friendly and apparently supportive and glad of our presence.

Security Personnel

The response from the security personnel was mostly calm and sometimes even friendly.  During the early morning of Ash Wednesday the cold was obvious to all of us.  One police officer offered to get Dan some gloves while he handed out leaflets.  Later in the day, Dan marked the building again and the same officer said in a disappointed manner, ‘And I was going to let you borrow some gloves this morning.’  Dan asked him to not take it personally.  A few during Lent recognised that while they had a job to do so too did we. 

Officer: ‘You have committed criminal damage.’  Dan: ‘Prove it.’  Officer: ‘It is all on CCTV, but we are constrained from proceeding to prosecution.’

By the third day of our witness we were threatened with arrest should be continue our witness.  The same threats were repeated on other days.

On another day, and for the first time, two officers came into the park where we gather for prayer and preparations before walking to the MoD.  They said if we proceeded to do our usual work we would be arrested and a civil prosecution taken out on us by the owners of the Building.  The MoD police would not do it but the owners of the building would proceed with a civil prosecution.  This curious and confused message did not put us off, since we had been prepared all along for the possibility arrest and the opportunity to make our defence in the court. 

On another occasion a senior officer ordered us to move our protest and presence a meter and a half further away from the MOD, so we would be standing on the public footpath.  ‘We respect your right to protest but you must do so off the MoD property.  You need to move further away from the steps and on the other side of the line that separates the public footpath and the MoD.’  He tried to call us together, interrupting our leafleting in order to speak to us.  Sr. Susan stayed standing at the bottom of the steps, continued to hand out leaflets, and said ‘I can hear you just fine where I am.’  Dan agreed and added ‘I am not moving off MoD property.’  What followed was a 45 minute discussion as to the significance of the line in the pavement, our position, and the morality or otherwise of nuclear weapons, as well as continued leafleting.

Twice the markers and once a supporter were subject to a formal Stop and Search.  Both Martin and Dan refused to give them their name and other personal details.  This lack of information might frustrate civil prosecutions.

On another occasion we changed out usual time of marking because the police figured out our Friday pattern.  Getting there at 7 a.m. was a shock to them.  One PC said: ‘It looks like you discovered your alarm clock.’  And as Susan, Dan and Angela were being shouted at by one security man, Martin, unnoticed, continued to write whole sentences.  One in big letters read: ‘Thus says the Lord: disarm your hearts and your nuclear weapons too!’

On the final day, the final approach from the senior officer was a question and warning: ‘Who is in charge?’  And ‘you must ask for permission to demonstrate otherwise you will be liable for arrest.’  Dan’s response: ‘We have been protesting here for 25 years and have never asked permission.’

The nuclear war preparations of this Government are likely to continue.  People of faith will continue to respond to this immoral and illegal situation. 

Dan Martin

Caught in the Crossfire of
Collateral Damage

By Ray Towey

Sometimes one particular patient can cause you to pause and reflect and Martha Okello,(not her real name but the photo is of herself and her mother with permission) a 10 year old girl and patient on the Intensive Care Unit, ICU, for 2 months is one patient whose story I would like to share. She was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army a few months ago, a rebel group that has been fighting the government troops in Northern Uganda for 20 years and when the government troops caught up with the rebels she was shot in the leg in the crossfire. The wound was bad but not so severe that she needed intensive care but one week later she developed a condition known as tetanus caused by a wound infection.

Many thousands of people and many of them babies die from tetanus in Africa each year and it is a very distressing condition and often a very painful death. The body is thrown into very strong spasms which look like epilepsy and without treatment and even with the limited treatment in Africa most will die from failure to breathe.

So I first came across Martha when she was admitted with tetanus in the ICU earlier this year. Our first line drugs were not working so we decided after much thought to use a treatment which is more expensive and more challenging to all the staff because it meant she would need to have a tracheostomy, a surgical opening in her neck, and would need to be placed on a ventilator for 3 weeks which is a big commitment of care from our nurses and clinicians.

Even with this care we could not guarantee a cure but it was her only hope and we embarked upon it. As you can see from her photo taken just a few weeks ago she survived and although her leg is still in the process of healing she should leave hospital well. Martha has a very wonderful smile as you can see in the photo and she often came to visit us in the ICU after she was discharged back to the ward and all the staff were delighted in her visits and in her obvious gratitude. So what have we learnt from Martha and what do I reflect upon?

In a medical context with the help of your donations we have found that for the bigger children tetanus can be successfully treated with both first line drugs such as magnesium and also with a tracheostomy and ventilation. Tetanus is a major killer in Africa but at least for the bigger children in our setting there is some hope. Our current priority is to buy another ventilator and continue to obtain more tracheostomy tubes from the donations we have.

In 20 years of practice in UK I cannot recall ever seeing a single patient with tetanus because with a few cheap injections almost the whole population is immunised against this condition. In Africa the extreme poverty of the medical infrastructure of basic healthcare means that many thousands are just not immunised adequately and in an area with 20 years of insecurity and with thousands of children being abducted to be sex slaves or child soldiers the weak infrastructure collapses completely. 

She is a victim of war in many ways. She was shot in the crossfire and that was a direct result but she was not immune from the complications of such wounds and that makes her a double effect casualty of war. She is the human face of the so called collateral damage of war and it is all preventable. The evidence is clear that when war comes malnutrition and diseases increase. When human beings choose the violent solution the children die. The LRA rebels believe the ten commandment of the Judeo-Christian faith should be the basis of a new government. As usual all protagonists in war claim to have God on their side. This seems to be true in Europe as in Africa and the Middle East. It is not a God I can recognise as to me the God who loves the poor does not inflict collateral damage on children.

Even in parts of Africa where there is no violent conflict tetanus remains a major cause of death. The healthcare infrastructure is very fragile as there are just too little funds available. If a small fraction of the money spent on war was directed to healthcare we would see a major change. Every global preventable disease is the collateral damage of our global wrong choices. It could be so different if we made a better choice for life. The sad truth is that most children like Martha just don’t survive but we thank God for the part we and our donors have made in her recovery and pray for a change of heart in those who justify war and its inevitable collateral damage and waste of resources.

Dr Ray Towey, rmtowey@tiscali.co.uk, is a long-time member of CPA. This article was published in his August 2006 Newsletter as a medical missionary in Uganda with the Volunteer Missionary Movement.  His support website is www.africanmission.org.uk.

January 1995 Newsletter

 January 1995

Dear Friends,

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;
Brazilian campesinos,
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

(Ray Towey is a member of the Volunteer Missionary Movement and recently returned from East Africa as a missionary doctor.)