Now is the time to protest

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Ash Wednesday witness against nuclear weapons at the Ministry of Defence

Early in the morning of Ash Wednesday, Fr. Martin Newell, a Passionist, and Ray Towey of Catholic Peace Network marked the wall of the Ministry of Defence with messages in charcoal .

Fr. Martin wrote, ‘Repent! Sign nukes ban treaty now ‘ and ‘God says No Trident’ before the police stopped him. Ray Towey started to draw a cross by the entrance before the police stopped him.

The pair were stopped and searched and then released. They joined Pax Christi later the same day for the yearly liturgy and witness against nuclear weapons.

Fr Martin commented, ‘ With Trump and North Korea it would be a bad year not to mark the Ministry of Defence. ‘

‘Some of us were at the Ministry of Defence here in London this morning, to continue the traditional ashing of foreheads with the marking of the ‘head’ of the UK military. The MoD is half of the UK equivalent of the Pentagon.’

The tradition of marking the building with charcoal is rooted in the Catholic tradition of marking foreheads with ashes, at the beginning of Lent.

Eight No Faith In War day activists found not guilty

Activists stand outside Stratford Magistrates Court after hearing their charges were dismissed

Nora Ziegler, Henrietta Cullinan, Jo Frew and Chris Cole celebrate the not guilty verdict outside Stratford Magistrates Court

In an exciting two days for the London Catholic Worker and Put Down the Sword, eight activists have received not guilty verdicts, after appearing in court on charges of wilful obstruction of the highway. The charges follow their direct action protest during the installation of the DSEI arms fair in London’s docklands last September.

The first group obstructed the road using lock-on boxes and the second group used climbing equipment to lower themselves from a road bridge. The intention was to create a place for prayer and peace while disrupting the passage of equipment into the Excel London exhibition centre.

District Judge Hamilton accepted that their actions were reasonable in the circumstances. In giving his verdict, the judge said their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights must be upheld.

The court heard how during the No Faith in War day of protest, four Christian activists  blocked the road using wooden boxes with arms tubes and lock ons. They were arrested after a matter of minutes, and the police took a further 90 minutes to free them.

The defendants Nora Ziegler (28), Joanna Frew (38), Henrietta Cullinan(56) and Chris Cole (54) each said they had campaigned for many years against the arms trade.

In their defence, Nora Ziegler and Jo Frew spoke movingly of how they each provided accommodation for destitute asylum seekers fleeing from the very conflicts exacerbated by the arms trade. Chris Cole told the court of a time when he had met a student from South Sudan, where traditional cattle rustling has become lethal since the introduction of weapons. Henrietta Cullinan told the judge of a time when she experienced first hand the militarisation of police in Calais, France, when riot police armed with tear gas and pepper spray prevented NGOs handing out food to refugees.

In the second trial that followed immediately from the first, Sam Donaldson, Louis Durton, Tom Franklin (59), and Nick Cooper of Put Down the Sword defended their protest that took place later on the same day. They showed the court extensive correspondence with their MPs about the arms trade, which had been to no avail.

You can read more about their trial here and the circumstances of their arrest here

In the media

UK campaigners just won a major legal victory against the world’s arms industry

Judge acquits protesters who blocked road to DSEI arms fair

DSEI London arms fair protestors acquitted as judge concedes actions were reasonable

Christians on trial for DSEI arms fair action

IMG_3002Eight arms trade protestors will appear in court this week , (1st and 2nd February) to answer charges of obstruction of the highway, following their actions during the installation of the DSEI Arms Fair in September last year. The members of Christian anti-war groups, the London Catholic Worker, Put Down the Sword and Pax Christi, were arrested on the NoFaithInWar day during a week of protest outside the Excel Centre in London’s docklands.

The defendants blocked the road, with the aim of creating a space for prayer and reflection, at the same time as preventing tanks and weaponry from entering the Excel centre. Four of the defendants suspended themselves from an access bridge and the others, using arms tubes and boxes, lay in the road. Meanwhile faith groups including Quakers, Pax Christi, Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, prayed and bore witness.

Nicholas Cooper (36), Sam Donaldson (29), Luis Durton, Tom Franklin (59), Henrietta Cullinan (56), Nora Ziegler (28), Chris Cole (53) and Joanna Frew (38) are among over 100 people who were arrested for peacefully protesting against the DSEI arms fair last September.

DSEI takes place every two years in London. It brings some of the world’s most oppressive regimes together with many of the biggest arms companies. It is organised by Clarion Events and the UK Government. Last year buyers included delegations from countries involved in conflict and human rights abusing regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan and Azerbaijan. They were joined by over 1500 arms companies, selling weapons that ranged from rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, surveillance and riot control equipment.

Defendant Tom Franklin,59, of Clifton Without, York said: “The DSEI arms fair is a key element in the promotion of war and crimes against humanity. Companies are selling weapons to regimes that are using them to kill civilians and torture and oppress. The government is promoting sales of weapons to some of the worst abusers of human rights such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.”

Defendant Nora Ziegler, 28, writes “The reason I took part in blocking the DSEI arms fair was to publicly witness to my faith in God’s love and my refusal to put faith in the institutions of war and oppression. I want to challenge the myth that the arms trade and war are inevitable or necessary and do what I can, in the spirit of non-violence, to resist these evils.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Please contact Nora Ziegler at londoncatholicworker@yahoo.co.uk 07923697218 or Tom Franklin at tom@franklin-consulting.co.uk 07989948221

Further information on faith groups involved

 

londoncatholicworker.org

@LndnCathWorker

putdownthesword.wordpress.com

@PutDownTheSword

More information about the DSEI arms fair can be found at:

Stop the Arms Fair: www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/about/dsei/

Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT): www.caat.org.uk

Holy Innocents at the Catholic Worker Farm

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Feast of Holy Innocents 2017: vigil at PJHQ Northwood

Shortly after Christmas, The Catholic Worker Farm hosted a faith and resistance retreat for the Feast of Holy Innocents. They were joined by members of the Dover Catholic Worker, Put Down the Sword, and Fr Martin Newell from Austin Smith House in Birmingham.

The Feast of Holy Innocents remembers the moment of the nativity story when Herod, having been double crossed by the Magi who slip home by another route, is so angry he sends out a decree that all first born sons under the age of two should be killed. (Matthew 2 vv12 – 18)

‘A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and great mourning; it was Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because none is left.’

The retreatants came together to reflect on the story and ask who are the Herods of today, who are the Holy Innocents.

On the day of the Feast itself they processed to PJHQ Northwood for a vigil. They read aloud the names of the dead from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and South Sudan. They also read names of British servicemen who died in those wars. They tied ribbons to the fence, in the shape of crosses. They engaged some of the military personnel in dialogue.

This is a wonderful opportunity for reflection and mourning at one of the usually most joyful times of the year, when Love comes down from his Kingdom.

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Prayers for today’s Holy Innocents, the victims of today’s wars

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Outside PJHQ Northwood: Blessed are the Peacemakers

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Catholic Workers engage the military outside PJHQ Northwood

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Tying crosses made of ribbons onto the fence at PJHQ Northwood

NEW REFORMATION PROTEST

New action from Christian Climate Action

Christian Climate Action

IMG_7792.JPGOn Monday 4th December, 12 noon, Pope Francis and Martin Luther visited the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to call for a radical reformation of the economy, to protect human-kind and abundant life on earth.

IMG_7794.JPGIt is the third year in a row that CCA has visited the department responsible for climate change to remind our government of their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

We visited BEIS because we disagree with the premise of the department, that climate instability should be solved as part of a strategy for economic growth.  We don’t think that the threat to the viability of life on earth should be dealt with within an immovable economic ideology, but should be the number one priority, choosing the economic system that is fair and just and gives us the best chance of survival. As Pope Francis has said, ‘money should serve, not rule.’

IMG_7806While…

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“We did not want to take this action, but were compelled to do so”

Supporters outside court

After the not guilty verdict, outside Burnley Magistrates Court

This afternoon, (26 October) Reverend Daniel Woodhouse and Sam Walton, a Quaker activist from London, were found not guilty at Burnley Magistrates Court, following their arrest for trying to disarm Typhoon fighter jets at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire on 29 January 2017.

Their aim had been to stop the jets, which had Saudi markings painted on them, from going to Saudi Arabia where they would be used to support the ongoing bombing of Yemen. Sam and Daniel successfully argued that their intention was to save innocent lives and prevent war crimes, by physically disabling the warplanes.

The two campaigners broke in via a fence on the perimeter of the site, and got within five feet of the warplanes before being stopped by BAE security.

The court heard evidence about the scale of the brutal bombardment, and the many serious accusations of war crimes that have been made against the Royal Saudi Air Force.

In delivering comments on his judgement District Judge James Clarke said: “They were impressive and eloquent men who held strong views about what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve. They impressed me as being natural in their delivery and honest throughout their evidence…”

“I heard about their belief of BAE’s role in the supply of aircraft to Saudi Arabia. I heard about their beliefs regarding the events in Yemen, that they include the death of civilians and the destruction of civilian property, and the basis for their belief that this amounted to war crimes…”

“However, having considered in full the defence under sec 5 Criminal Damage Act 1971, I find the defendants not guilty.”

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:

  • £2.6 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)    

  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)    

  • £572,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)    

In a joint statement, Sam and Daniel said: “We did not want to take this action, but were compelled to do so in order to stop the UK government’s complicity in the destruction of Yemen. Thousands of people have been killed in the brutal bombardment, while companies like BAE Systems have profited every step of the way.

This vindication from the Courts is further evidence of the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy that underpins so much of UK foreign policy. It is time for the government to stop putting arms company profits ahead of human rights. We do not regret taking action, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The only thing we regret is that we were not able to finish the job.”

Christians arrested at arms fair protest

Yesterday morning (5th September) members of Christian peace groups, Put Down the Sword and the London Catholic Worker, were arrested after successfully blocking the service road leading to the Excel Centre, using arm tubes.

The activists intention was to create a prayer space for faith groups to gather and witness against the arms trade. The blockade formed the basis of a prayer space decorated with prayer flags and banners.

Following this action there were other actions in which members of Put Down the Sword abseiled from the bridge and Quakers blocked the road with a massive were arrested. Altogether peace activists held the road for [xx] hours while faith groups from the Quakers, Pax Christi, Wake Up, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship said prayers and bore witness. There was a bring and share lunch for all faiths.

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The names of the those taking part in the direct action are Chris Cole, (53) of Oxford, and Nora Ziegler (26) Joanna Frew (38) and Henrietta Cullinan (56) all from London.

Chris Cole [53] says,

At a time when war has become so normalised that it has faded into the background, its more important than ever that we say a clear and simple ‘no more war preparations ‘.

Joanna Frew [38] writes,

‘Like Theresa May, I am a vicar’s daughter. But unlike Theresa May, I see the principles of the Christian faith as an active commitment to non-violence. Jesus risked ridicule, imprisonment, torture and, ultimately, a political death sentence to teach us radical non-violence and peacemaking.

The arms fair, supported by Theresa May’s government, contributes to war, violence and oppression in countries where conflict and suffering is beyond imaginable, such as Yemen, Bahrain and Israel-Palestine. DSEi also helps the border security industry to push equipment and ideas that deal with migration as a crime that needs to be stopped. The Bible is full of examples of welcoming the stranger and providing hospitality. We are here to say that this is the kind of welcome we want to see, not one for dictators and murderous regimes.’

For further information on the protests see:

Stop the Arms Fair https://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk

For further information on the two groups see:

London Catholic Worker http://www.londoncatholicworker.org

Put Down the Sword https://putdownthesword.wordpress.com

Activists enter US military base in Germany to challenge nuclear weapons deployment

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Catholic Worker Susan Crane amongst five international activists who entered nuclear weapons base, Buchel Air Base in Germany

Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
An international group of five peace activists got far inside the
Büchel Air Base in Büchel, Germany, after nightfall on Monday, 17 July
2017.

For the first time in a 21-year long series of protests against the deployment of US B61 thermonuclear bombs there, the activists climbed on top of one large bunker used for nuclear weapons. After cutting through two exterior fences and two more fences surrounding the large earth-covered bunkers, the five spent more than one hour unnoticed sitting on the bunker. No notice of the group was taken until after two
of them climbed down to write “DISARM” on the bunker’s metal front door, setting off an alarm. Surrounded by vehicles and guards searching on foot with flashlights, the five eventually alerted guards to their presence by singing, causing the guards to look up. The internationals were eventually taken into custody more than two hours after entering
the base.
The five, Steve Baggarly, 52, of Virginia; Susan Crane, 73, of California; John LaForge, 61, and Bonnie Urfer, 65, both of Wisconsin; and Gerd Buentzly, 67, of Germany, said in a statement titled All Nuclear Weapons are Illegal and Immoral: “We [..] have entered Büchel Air Base to condemn the nuclear weapons deployed here. We ask Germany to either disarm the weapons or send them back to the United States for disarming.”
An hour after being detained, searched and photographed, the five were
released through the base’s main entrance.

Activists from the United States came to Büchel to highlight the plans
for modernization of the B61. Ralph Hutchison, from Oak Ridge,
Tennessee, where a new thermonuclear core for the “B61-Model12” will be
manufactured, said: “It is important that we show this is a global
movement. The resistance to nuclear weapons is not limited to one
country. The new B61-12 program will cost more than $12 billion, and
when production starts sometime after 2020, Büchel is scheduled to get
new nuclear bombs.”
“The idea that nuclear weapons provide security is a fiction believed
by millions,” said John LaForge, of Nukewatch in Wisconsin, which
organized the 11-person delegation from the US. “Tonight we showed that
the image of a secure nuclear weapons facility is also a fiction,” he said.
“Everyone’s children and everyone’s grandchildren have a right to a
nuclear weapons-free world. All of creation calls us to life, to
disarmament, to a world of justice—for the poor, the Earth, and the
children,” read the statement, released in both German and English.

Susan Crane, a Plowshares activist from the Redwood City, Calif.
Catholic Worker, said, “The Commander of the Base, Oberstleutnant
Schlemmer, came to meet us at 3:00 a.m. and told us what we did was very
dangerous and we might have been shot. We believe the greater danger
comes from the nuclear bombs that are deployed at the Base.”

Büchel is Everywhere, Nuclear Weapons Free Now! continues until August
9, 2017 and will close with a commemoration of the US atomic bombing of
Nagasaki, Japan.

Message of Support from Dorothy Day’s granddaughter

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One of over fifty Christian activists signing the Faith and Resistance Pledge at the launch

Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day sent us this message of support:

FAITH-BASED NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION

I write in support of the Nonviolent Direct Action Network being launched this month in the UK. As disciples of Christ in His two thousand year old movement, we strain to hear the voice of God guiding us, giving us courage, helping us to walk while holding “enemy” love. We need each other in community as we follow our daily practice of the works of mercy. The best way to visit the prisoner is to be in prison.

Our tears are a form of prayer and protest in our awareness of the suffering we inflict on the so-called “other”. Our position of privilege and power reminds us that we are complicit in the sins of violence. Our high standard of living relies on the exploits of war.

“Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.” We are blessed in our rising up in protest against the misuse of nation/state law that refutes God’s law of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Christ was executed through devious yet “legal” means. We continue to practice this murder on a massive scale in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and many other countries, even in the streets of our own western democracies.

Our small but persistent actions may appear to be weak, but remember; God hears just one voice raised up against evil. Our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock, North Dakota are showing us the way. Many other people around the world are standing up and are paying a harsh price. Like our Christian forerunners in the early centuries of the Church, we too can place ourselves in solidarity with the oppressed. We must not idolize the state system by complying with the lust-filled force; we want heaven on earth here and now.

Message of support from Martin Sheen

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Gathering of activists at Friends House yesterday

Martin Sheen, best known for his role in Apocalypse Now, sent a message of support for new Faith and Resistance Network:

Dear friends,

When we accept the cup as offered, not altered, we join a powerful world-wide community who share a common vision of hope and a deep thirst for that mysterious nourishment called grace, which soars up and flows out of a collective memory from all those times and places where that mighty blessing descended on those outrageous and necessary acts of compassionate confrontation,  those heroic acts of non-violent resistance that take our breath away and renew the face of the earth!

Peace be with you

Martin sheen