Bishop sends message of support to Christian activists, willing to risk arrest

Over fifty Christians, who have pledged to take nonviolent direct action for the sake of justice and peace, have gained the support of Thomas McMahon, Bishop Emeritus of Brentwood.

The activists, of all denominations and from all parts of the country, campaign on issues of justice, peace and climate change, and consider nonviolent direct action to be an unavoidable consequence of following Jesus’ teaching today. They will gather to take the pledge at the launch of the Faith and Resistance Network on Saturday 15th July at Friends House, Euston Road, London.

In a statement to be read out on Saturday, Thomas McMahon says,

‘I have long believed that when the Gospel loses its prophetic element it has lost its cutting edge. A prophet is very much God’s person who is prepared to challenge in his name even though uncomfortable. They are not usually popular people and certainly disturb our conscience. There are many ways of giving prophetic witness  and non violent direct action can be one of them.’

The pledge was initiated by the Faith and Resistance Network whose aim is to grow the Christian nonviolent action movement, widen recognition of its wide ranging work and welcome new activists.

Martin Newell, one of the organisers, says,

‘Nonviolence is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. This network will raise the profile of Christians today putting Jesus’ radical teaching into action’

The network is intended to support activists as they embark on direct action, through providing training, contact with the media and legal support. It has been set up by experienced activists who have themselves been arrested, charged and convicted and experienced time in prison for the sake of their faithfulness to the teaching of Christ.

Symon Hill, author of The Upside Down Bible writes,

‘Jesus exemplified active nonviolence and resistance to the sins of violence, oppression and inequality. I continue to seek God’s guidance and am unsure of the way forward, but I don’t doubt that active nonviolence is an essential element of seeking to follow Jesus. It is a consequence of attempting to live out love for God and love for our neighbours.’

At the launch pledgers and their friends will hear from Andrea Needham, ploughshares activist and author of The Hammer Blow and Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse, who recently attempted to disarm a warplane, bound for Saudi Arabia, at RAF Warton, Lancashire.

The pledgers look forward to the No Faith in War Day, which will see people of all faiths oppose the DSEi arms fair in September.

Christians disrupt military conference

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Christian campaigners have disrupted an arms industry-funded event at Church House Westminster just as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is due to speak.

A few minutes ago, they blockaded the main entrance to the building, insisting that a Christian venue should not be hosting the annual Land Warfare Conference.

Senior army officers and arms industry personnel are now clustered around the steps and unable to get through the doorway. It is unclear whether Fallon’s speech, due at 9.00am, will go ahead as planned.

The conference is organised by a pro-military thinktank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and sponsored by arms companies including Airbus Defence and L3.

Along with the small number of Christians blocking the doorway, others are standing by offering support, with banners declaring “Evict the arms dealers”, “Anglicans against arms” and quoting Jesus’ words, “All who take up the sword will die by the sword”.

The Christians blocking the entrance say they have taken nonviolent direct action after five years of attempting to engage with the Church House authorities, who have repeatedly ignored letters, refused to hold meetings and even blocked polite critics on social media.

Christian author Symon Hill is one of those blockading the entrance. Before the protest, he said:

“I am not taking this action lightly. Church House have consistently refused to listen or talk with us, ignored the points we have raised and even given misleading statements to the media. As those with power refuse to listen, we have taken nonviolent direct action, putting our bodies in the way of the evil that is going on at Church House today.”

Eve Waterside, a member of the Church of England living in Oxford, is also taking part. She explained:

“Jesus lived a life of active nonviolence. We are called to follow his example, however fallibly. A leading Christian conference centre is being used to plan large-scale violence, funded by companies that arm some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. I am sad and angry to see the church of which I am part profiting from war and the arms trade.”

Church House claim that Church House Westminster (the conferencing wing of Church House) is a separate business. However, it is a wholly owned subsidiary business of Church House Corporation, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Church of England breaks its Engagement with Fossil Fuels at staged wedding

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Church of England breaks its Engagement with Fossil Fuels at staged wedding

On Monday 8th May, Christian Climate Action staged a wedding between the Church of England and fossil fuels to protest the Church’s continued investment in the industry. The sketch and short prayer vigil took place on the steps of Church House, Dean’s Yard, Westminster.

The event, which was part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation, aimed to encourage the Church of England to show moral leadership and divest from the fossil fuel industry. Currently the Church is pursuing a policy of engagement – holding shares in the industry and using shareholder status to try to change the industry’s behaviour. Christian Climate Action believes that engagement cannot work because there is not enough time for it to prevent runaway climate change having a devastating impact on people and God’s creation. They also do not think it is right for the Church to profit from an industry that is making money from wrecking the earth’s climate.

In the sketch, where the Bride of Christ, representing the Church of England, was to be given in marriage to the fossil fuel industry, there was an objection from Jesus Christ, who persuaded the bride to break her engagement with fossil fuels and seek forgiveness.

After the play the guests heard about the impact of coal mining and climate change in Colombia and Uganda before joining in a short prayer vigil.

Diana Salazar, of Colombia Solidarity Campaign, said, ‘the Church of England invests in BHP Billiton and Anglo American, two of the biggest mining companies in the world, and both with significant coal mining operations. They are among the owners of the Cerrejon opencast coal mine in Colombia, which has a history of forced evictions of farming communities and destruction of rural livelihoods. The mine has a massive impact on water in an arid region, and when mine management are challenged about this they try to evade responsibility by blaming water shortages on climate change. Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, primarily coal, so this is rather an ironic excuse for a coal company to use.’

Jim Green talked about his recent visit to rural Uganda with a Christian Development Agency. ‘Every community we visited were talking about the effect of climate change. For some it meant having only one meal a day, or, in some cases, one meal every two days.’

The Church Commissioners were ‘invited’ to the ‘wedding’ but were unable to attend.  Before leaving, Holly Petersen, dressed as the Bride of Christ, handed in some chocolate hearts and a card to the Church Commissioners’ Communications Officer, asking them to conclude the Church’s engagement with fossil fuels.

Caroline Harmon of Christian Climate Action said:

The Church of England claims to be a responsible investor, and has a strong moral voice. It claims to understand the threat and urgency of climate change, yet instead of divesting from the biggest fossil fuel companies, they continue to engage. As part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation we invited the Church Commissioners to the wedding of the Church and fossil fuels, where we highlighted the impacts of climate change and prayed for more urgent action.’

More photos are available here

 

Faith and Resistance: an invitation

Today we are launching our invitation to Christian activists to sign our pledge to take part in non-violent direct action.

“Guided by the teaching and practice of Jesus, motivated by my faith in God, I pledge to take part in non-violent direct action, in response to God’s call to social justice, peace and protection of the integrity of creation.”

We are hoping to encourage at least 50 people to sign the pledge by the time of the official launch of the network in July 2017. We hope this will raise the profile of the network and Christians engaged in non-violent direct action.

Please email faithandresistance@gmail.com if you would like to sign the pledge and become involved in the network.

The Pope’s message of non-violence

January 5th 2017

As a lifelong Catholic, engaged in justice and peace for most of my adult life, it was with great joy that I heard the Pope would be using message for World Peace Day to discuss nonviolence.

There is so much to cherish in the Pope’s wise words. His understanding of the damage violence does, and his recognition of the powerful nature of nonviolent direct action, citing the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the less well known but equally important Leymah Gbowee and other Liberian women.

‘Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.   I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.   Violence profanes the name of God.   Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence.  Peace alone is holy.  Peace alone is holy, not war!”.

Indeed. A welcome start to 2017 and a huge inspiration for all of us engaged in working for peace.

Virginia Moffatt