Bradford church blockades Total garage over Burma crisis

By staff writers
September 29, 2007

A progressive church in Bradford is calling on all churches to advocate a boycott on Total garages during the present crisis in Burma - because the company is seen as an important prop to the murderous regime there.

Members of JustChurch, a Bradford city centre 'fresh expression' of church within the Anglican tradition, blockaded a Total Garage in the city centre and urged drivers to go elsewhere.

"Total is the biggest foreign investor in Burma, and the democratically elected leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Ky, has called on us to stop Total from propping up this horrific military regime," explained the Rev Chris Howson, minister for JustChurch.

Around 30 activists joined the action yesterday at a Total petrol station. Most drivers were reported to be supportive, although many had been unaware of the company's involvement with Burma.

Total is involved in a joint venture with the Burmese dictatorship in the Yadana gas project, which earns the regime hundreds of millions of dollars every year, say campaigners.

Aung Sun Suu Kyi, currently in detention, has said: “Total has become the main supporter of the military regime”.

JustChurch in Bradford takes liberation theology as its model and works vigorously on human rights, peace and poverty issues from a Gospel perspective.

Sixteen people connected to the church have been arrested in the past year, mostly related to the ongoing occupation in Iraq, and the decision to renew the Trident Nuclear programme. They will be involved in a protest at Faslane next month.

"With regards to Burma, we are calling on all churches to boycott Total, telling the company why they are doing so, and to join the Free burma Campaign UK", a spokesperson told Ekklesia today.

The Burma Campaign in the UK has produced what it calls a 'dirty list' of companies backing the regime.

The letter from JustChurch to Total is as follows:

I have just read your recent statement on your web page about deciding to stay supporting the current repressive regime in Burma.

You take no account of the fact that the democratically elected leader of Myanmar has called for you to desist supporting the regime. You have ignored the argument that you provide much needed revenue for the illegal military junta to continue its repression of the Burmese people.

Your statement simply sounds like those companies who were propping up the apartheid regime in South Africa (companies issued similar statements talking of the jobs they provided and their good influence on the regime). That argument held little weight then, and even less now.

I and many others will now choose to actively boycott your company in the light of your intransigence during this crisis.

Please rethink your position. I will continue to pray for you and the people of Myanmar [Burma].

Rev Chris Howson
Bradford, Church of England


News updates from Burma:

Also on Ekklesia, Burma's spiritual revolution (by Gene Stoltzfus of Christian Peacemaker Teams):

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