Priest prays and acts against drone attacks

By staff writers
August 23, 2013

An Anglican priest who is to appear in court in October for nonviolent civil disobedience, will offer a prayer against drone attacks at Greenbelt on Monday.

The prayer, at 2pm on Monday 26th August, will be part of a Workshop session on 'Powers of Imagination' at the well-known festival, whjich takes place this Bank Holiday weekend in Cheltenham.

Workshop is a grassroots theological training initiative with a radical and biblical emphasis. It is a long standing partner of the think-tank Ekklesia.

The Rev Dr Keith Hebden, based at St Mark's Church in Mansfield, appeared in Lincoln magistrates court back at the beginning of last month, along with five co-defendants, who entered RAF Waddington last month through a hole in the fence to plant a “Peace Garden” and look for evidence of Armed Drone operations there.

'Disarm the drones', as the 'Waddington 6' call themselves, entered the base on the 3 June 2013, commemorating the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, where Dr Hebden planted a vine and fig tree, echoing the biblical tradition of the prophets, “They shall all sit under their own vine and fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah chapter 3) and put up posters and banners.

This is not the first time the 'Seeking Justice' priest, who is also an associate of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, has been arrested for civil disobedience.

His recent book, Seeking Justice: The Radical Compassion of Jesus plots some of his actions and ideas.

On leaving court back in July he said, “I look forward to the opportunity of returning to court in October where it will be the use of armed drones, not us, who will be on trial,” adding, “I want our troops to be safe but I cannot value the life of a British soldier higher than the life of an Afghan civilian – there is one God and Father of all humankind.”

The group were arrested on site and taken to Lincoln police station where they were held overnight while their homes were searched by local police officers. G4S told Mr Hebden's duty solicitor that G4S observed they were “the nicest prisoners we've ever had.”

Keith says he is very happy to be back home and focused on pastoral care and worship at St Mark's and in Mansfield. But he will also be involved in action against a major London arms fair shortly.

Keith Hebden has been bailed until the hearing in October on condition that he does not come within 100 metres of any Lincolnshire RAF base. The public hearing will take place at Lincoln Magistrates Court before a District Judge on Monday 7th October.

A few days after the action at Waddington, a team of lawyers from Birmingham brought into question the legality of the use of Armed drones by British forces in Afghanistan arguing that their use may constitute a "war crime".

Dr Hebden will be signing copies of his book and talking with people about it at the Greenbelt Festival on Monday at 4.30pm.

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