Church leaders have been urged to “be more courageous and prophetic in challenging Trident replacement”. The call came at Pax Christi’s recent Annual General Meeting in London.
Anne Dodd, chair of the British section of the international Catholic peace organisation, urged local members to lobby the Catholic hierarchy on this issue. She was applauded by an audience of around 60, which included Bruce Kent, Vice-President of both Pax Christi and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
The government recently gave a go ahead for the first phase of a process which could lead to the renewal of the UK's fleet of Trident nuclear missile submarines.
The Trident issue was taken up by Dave Webb from Leeds, the chair of CND, who received a peace award at the meeting. In the late 1970s he worked in the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence in London, but now campaigns against nuclear weapons and missile defence.
“Surely at this time we can make headway on persuading people that we should cancel stupid nuclear submarines at a time when the government is shutting down hospitals” he said.
The director of the Praxis Centre on the Study of Information and Technology in Peace, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights at Leeds Metropolitan University, he has regularly appeared as an expert witness for peace campaigners active in protests at North Yorkshire’s Menwith Hill spy base and has spoken against missile defence at the European Parliament.
He said he is currently inspired by Korean peace activist Yang Yoon-Mo, who has been on hunger strike since 6 April protesting against the development of a US Naval Base near the Korean village of Gangjeong.
Pax Christi’s General Secretary, Pat Gaffney, urged the Catholic Church in the UK to be more responsive to the Palestinian Kairos document. “We affirm the call in the document from Palestine’s Christians urging more international advocacy to address their plight,” she said.
A couple from Southampton, who were part of a 2009 ecumenical fact finding group to Israel and Palestine, also received a peace award. Audrey and Frank Campbell were praised for their “faithful and persistent work for peace” and were delighted with the award itself, produced by the Neve Shalom village in Palestine.
Lying between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem it is a community where Jews and Muslims live side by side peacefully and the award carries a design of a peace dove. They paid tribute to Pat Gaffney, “whose own peace work is an inspiration to us all”.
The Campbells too have campaigned against the renewal of Trident and supported the annual Pax Christi Ash Wednesday witness at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.
Canon David Porter, Director for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, spoke to the Pax Christi members about religion as a resource to heal conflict, reflecting that ‘bad’ religion often trumps ‘good’ religion since it is easier to motivate fears than raise hopes.
The awards were presented by Bishop Malcolm McMahon of the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham who is the National President of Pax Christi.
The Pax Christ AGM took place on Saturday 28 May 2011.
Pax Christi – www.paxchristi.org.uk
Canon David Porter - http://canondavid.wordpress.com/
(c) Ellen Teague is a freelance Catholic journalist who works regularly for The Tablet, JUSTICE magazine, Independent Catholic News, Redemptorist Publications and the Messenger of St Anthony. She is also a member of the Columban Missionary Society Justice and Peace team, and chairs the Environment Working Group of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales.