Christians arrested for 'disarming' nuclear base

By staff writers
September 8, 2010

Three Catholic peace activists who were arrested after cutting through the fence at a nuclear base say that they were “inspired by the message of Jesus”.

The three, who include a priest, entered the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston, England and put up a sign declaring “Open for Disarmament: All Welcome”.

The incident follows UK government plans to build a new multi-million pound nuclear testing facility at the Aldermaston site. One of the gates of the establishment was blocked on Monday (6 September) by around twenty members and supporters of Trident Ploughshares who disrupted access to the site during the morning rush hour.

The three Catholics have all been arrested in the past for nonviolent direct action. They include Father Martin Newell, 43, a Passionist priest from London Catholic Worker. The others are Susan Clarkson, 63, of Oxford Catholic Worker and Chris Cole, 47, also from Oxford.

They said that they were at Aldermaston to open “a new gateway into this tightly guarded factory of death”.

In a statement issued shortly after they entered the base, they declared, “We come inspired by the message of Jesus to love our enemies, to be peacemakers and to live and act nonviolently at all times”.

The activists pointed out that this week marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first act of direct nuclear disarmament, the “Ploughshares 8”. They said that their action was inspired by the same “spirit of disarmament”.

They added, “We believe that AWE Aldermaston and its extensive and expensive new development programme needs to be exposed for what it is: a factory for the creation of weapons of mass destruction which have the power to destroy this beautiful world, given to us by God, our loving creator, to care and tend”.

In addition to Newell, Clarkson and Cole, three of the Trident Ploughshares activists were also arrested for their role in blocking one of the establishment's gates.

Trident Ploughshares are drawing attention to the ongoing £1 billion-a-year modernisation programme at Aldermaston, which includes the Orion laser, an enriched uranium handling facility and three new supercomputers.

The campaigners say this will enable the UK government to develop a new generation of nuclear warheads, circumventing obligations under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and undermining its disarmament commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They are also concerned about the health and safety and environmental implications of the new developments, particularly in light of the lack of public disclosure.

Ann Kobayashi, a Trident Ploughshares activist and retired social worker from Wickford, Essex, said, “We don’t need new nuclear weapons, but we do need the skills and knowledge of the AWE workforce to address the significant challenges of decommissioning existing nuclear weapons and nuclear waste disposal, which will affect future generations”.


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