Christians to mark Ash Wednesday with civil disobedience
Christians are to risk arrest through acts of non-violent civil disobedience, including marking the Ministry of Defence building with ash and charcoal - traditional Christian symbols of repentance - this Ash Wednesday (1st March).
Christians will gather at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London, to challenge the morality and legality of government policy on nuclear weapons.
Members of Catholic Peace Action and Pax Christi have been meeting in similar ways since 1984 to urge the government to build security through a commitment to justice and actions that recognise the dignity of each person rather than through fear and the strength of nuclear arms.
During Ash Wednesday this year acts of non-violent civil disobedience will take place as people risk arrest by marking the building with blessed ash and charcoal, traditional symbols of repentance used on the Christian festival.
A liturgy, which begins in Embankment Gardens at 2.30 pm, will then take people to a series of stops in Horseguards Avenue where the trials and crucifixion of Christ will be recalled, which Christians see as a way of witnessing to the love of God in the face of violence and cruelty.
There is an even greater urgency to challenge nuclear weapons this year, say campaigners, as the Government is actively planning to develop and deploy another generation of British nuclear weapons after the existing Trident submarine system is decommissioned.
British church leaders from across the Christian denominations have already urged that the Government spell out the conditions under which it might forego a replacement of Trident.
Campaigners say that any move to replace Trident would be in opposition to Britain's commitment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Article VI pledges "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmamentÖ"
Writing in his World Peace Day message in January of this year Pope Benedict XVI said "What can be said 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 a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament."
These words will be used as part of the liturgy on Ash Wednesday.