It was a strange sight. There are not many occasions on which I watch people singing Thine Be The Glory while surrounded by police.
Other police were using cutting implements to separate people who had chained themselves together in the middle of the road. Not long before, demonstrators had argued with police officers about whether they could take cups of tea to their comrades who were lying in the gateway.
But while the scenes outside the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) may sound surreal, they are not nearly as bizarre as what goes on every day inside it.
In the AWE, researchers and scientists whose skills could be used to further healthcare or tackle climate change are deployed to develop weapons of mass destruction. Gordon Brown is committed to renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system – at a cost that is likely to be no lower than £76 billion – at the same time as telling Iran that it’s not reasonable to produce nuclear arms.
Not only could yesterday’s protestors see that this is ridiculous but, despite the extreme cold, the threat of arrest and the danger of feeling that nothing is changing, they were prepared to do something about it.
The people who I watched throw themselves on the ground in front of the Tadley Gate at Aldermaston did so with quiet firmness and resolution, and with a compassionate attitude towards the police and others they addressed. It had not occurred to me that it is possible to leap to the ground in a dignified manner, but yesterday I watched people do just that.
Their behaviour demonstrated the spiritual grounding in which their activism is rooted. The prayers, hymns and biblical comments were not forced or included simply to make a point. They came naturally from these people’s hearts, flowing out in a way that demonstrated commitment without forcing itself on those who did not share Christian faith. The Buddhist monks in the group cheered as much as the rest in response to John Hull’s biblical assertion that all land belongs to God, and that the campaigners had arrived to “reclaim” Aldermaston in the Lord’s name.
It was truly inspirational. The power that sustained people lying in freezing cold gateways is the power of God that is very different to, but much stronger than, the transient power of violence defended behind the barbed wire of Aldermaston. I was privileged to glimpse that power yesterday, a power that can turn the world the right way up.