Protests over Gaza conflict sweep across Britain

By staff writers
January 11, 2009

Protestors against the violence in Gaza and for an immediate ceasefire have taken place across Britain this weekend, including demonstrations in London, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Belfast, Newcastle and Southampton.

Among those taking part have been peace campaigners, human rights activists, Muslim organisations and Christian groups such as Pax Christi.

Similar public manifestations have occurred in other parts of Europe and across the world over the past fortnight, expressing widespread opposition to the killing in Israel-Palestine.

The protest in London involved betwen 20-60,000 people according to different estimates offered by the police, the BBC and organisers.

It started peacefully but there were confrontations as police tried to move demonstrators away from the gates of the Israeli embassy. Three police officers were injured as a minority of people threw missiles.

BBC correspondent Robert Hall said given the small number of people involved, the protest had been predominantly peaceful.

"But as darkness fell a small number of people, several hundred, have begun confronting police and missiles have been thrown," he reported. "Although these are ugly and unwelcome scenes, they do not represent what has happened for most of the afternoon."

Christian peace organisations such as Pax Christi had urged church members and others to join the protests and put the case for nonviolence.

In a statement Pax Christi declared: "[W]ith no ceasefire in sight, we must show our solidarity with the dispossessed who suffer the violence of the bombs and the violence of the on-going siege. We must show our solidarity with those Christians, Jews and Muslims in the region who bravely call for an end to violence - pointing to futility of violence and military responses to the long and tragic political problems of Palestine and Israel."

It continued: "We are with Pope Benedict in declaring that: 'the dramatic news that we are receiving from the Gaza Strip shows that the refusal to dialogue leads to situations that weigh unspeakably on the populations who are again victim to hatred and war' (Rome, Angelus, 4 January 2009)

"We are with former International President of Pax Christi, Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah who has said that 'every hour is not just a war crime but a crime against humanity.' The Patriarch was speaking earlier this week at a service in Jerusalem. 'In the skies above Gaza lightning falls on human rights. We have seen this in the past and what we see in the Strip, unfortunately, is repeated generation after generation. It is not an act of God. God created [humanity] in [God's] own image and likeness, created love and reconciliation and justice, but what we see is the destruction of human beings in Gaza and everywhere, and the destruction of all of Palestine.'"

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