Up to 50,000 demonstrators took to the streets in London and Glasgow today (Saturday 24 February 2007) to call for an end to the war in Iraq, a non-military resolution of tensions involving Iran, and the scrapping of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Church leaders and Christians were among the protestors.
In London the march was preceded by an ecumenical church service for peace at Hinde Street Methodist Church. In Glasgow the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was among those delivering messages calling on the UK government not to replace its Trident nuclear fleet.
The Rev Alan McDonald, reminded the 3,000-strong gathering that for the past 25 years Scottish Presbyterians, along with people from other Christian traditions, had argued that nuclear weapons were both morally and theologically wrong.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said his church was speaking out because Trident was "immoral".
He added: "Over a year ago we said Make Poverty History. Now we are saying Make Trident History. Make nuclear war history. That is what is uniting so many people today."
In December 2006, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair outlined plans to spend some £20 billion on a new generation of submarines for Trident missiles, which are currently based at Faslane on the Clyde in Scotland.
Scottish Green Party speaker Chris Balance said that polls clearly indicated that the great majority of people opposed the weapons and deplored the money they would waste.
In both London and Glasgow, people from all faith backgrounds and none joined together to make their voices heard. The protests were co-ordinated by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Stop the War Movement and the British Muslim Initiative – which is especially concerned about belligerent noises toward Iran from the Bush administration.
A group of 13 Christian leaders from a variety of denominations, coordinated by Mennonites and Quakers, have been in Iran this past week seeking to build bridges of dialogue with both religious and political leaders in Tehran.
They say that ways other than violence have to be found to handle disputes over nuclear power and Middle East issues, and that people of faith should be among those in the forefront of alternative policies.
In London demonstrators claimed over 50,000 people took to the streets. The police numbered 10,000. Independent estimates were in the region of 30,000.