On Wednesday 7th March, Midlands Christian Action held their first prayer vigil outside the premises of Heckler& Koch in Nottingham. Sr. Katrina Alton writes,
Heckler & Koch is a German-based weapons company which operates in the UK under the name NSAF Ltd.
It describes itself as a ‘world-wide leading company in small arms production’ and has been supplying weapons across the globe for the past 60 years, including pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns and sniper rifles. It currently manufactures the British Army’s primary assault rifle – the SA80.
In the run up to and during the Arab Spring it applied for UK arms export licences to Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman.
Fr. Martin was in court on 28th February over a fine, resulting from a protest outside the DSEI arms fair in 2009. He was given 28 days to pay.
Martin said: “I am continuing this objection as an act of solidarity with all those who suffer injustice and violence as a result of the arms trade.” Friends including the Passionist Provincial Fr. John Kearns came to the court today to support Fr. Martin.
In case you missed it, here he is speaking outside the court.
It was covered by the Birmingham Mail here
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.
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.
— Chris Cole (@Chris_Co1e) February 7, 2018
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.
— Stop The Arms Fair! (@StopTheArmsFair) February 8, 2018
In the media
Eight 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 07923697218 or Tom Franklin at email@example.com 07989948221
Further information on faith groups involved
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
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.
New action from Christian Climate Action
On 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.
It 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.’
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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.”
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.
Stopping the arms fair on a Tuesday morning!!!! pic.twitter.com/3U2EpdgF59
— Put Down The Sword (@PutDownTheSword) September 5, 2017
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.
— CAAT (@CAATuk) 6 September 2017
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  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  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.’