Bishop to address peacemaking service

9/1/2015 – For immediate release

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Contact: Emma 01865 250781

BISHOP OF MANCHESTER TO LEAD NATIONAL CELEBRATION MARKING 100 YEARS OF CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKING

Christian peace charity the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) will conclude its centenary year with a service led by Bishop of Manchester David Walker at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford at 2pm on Saturday 17 January 2015.

The ecumenical service will include contributions from FoR members and supporters, as well as stories from the UK and around the world. The service is open for anyone to attend and a retiring collection will be taken for the work of FoR.

Chair of Trustees, Richard Bickle said:

“As we reflect on the hundred years since the outbreak of World War One, the vital work of reconciliation has rarely enjoyed a higher profile featuring as it did in the Queen’s Christmas Message, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon and the Pope’s New Year address.

The service provides an opportunity for members and supporters to give thanks for the work of Christian peacemakers and commit ourselves anew to work for peace and reconciliation.”

The service will include a presentation to retiring FoR Director Millius Palayiwa.

Richard Bickle said “Millius is retiring at the end of our highly successful Centenary Year, after four years of service. We recognise his significant contribution over this period and thank him in particular for the successful co-ordination of the Centenary celebrations and the raised profile of our organisation.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:
– The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a Christian peace charity. It was formed in 1914 to support people who held a belief that war in all its forms was morally wrong.
– Today the Fellowship works to support grassroots peacemakers in areas of conflict through its International Peacemakers’ Fund and equips its members to campaign, act and pray for peace.
– FoR in England is part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
– Further information is available at www.for.org.uk

Air strikes – what next?

Devastatingly, UK MPs voted in support of carrying out air strikes in Iraq. This is a terrible result for the civilians in the area and for the country. We hardly need to mention Tony Blair’s mistakes to see that it was a bad idea in 2003 and it’s a terrible idea now. The result was 524 to 43. One of the people who voted against was an aide to the shadow defence secretary. They were sacked as a direct result.

There is still plenty that can be done to stop the situation escalating.

Via your MP
You can find out how your MP voted here. Write to your MP (find them here) either thanking them for voting against, or telling them that you object to military action; that you are opposed to the use of ground troops or military action in Syria; and that not taking military action is not the same as doing nothing.  Britain has been part of humanitarian aid efforts but now is counteracting that with strikes which could easily result in civilian casualties.

The Quakers wrote an excellent open letter to David Cameron. You could use this for inspiration, or take a look at Stop the War’s article on what can be done instead. Also check out their news interview. Very measured but firm responses.

Make it clear that something needs to be done about the situation, but that military force is never the solution.  There are some more examples of why it’s such bad news, in case your MP is one of those who seems to have a penchant for war.  Pax Christi International have said they fear the air strikes will “serve as little more than a recruiting tool for the extremist group”.

With your faith community
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said today in the House of Lords that, “in the here and now, there is justification for the use of armed force”.  Given an opportunity to witness to the gospel of the prince of peace, the head of the CofE came down on the side of violence and militarism.

The Quakers have already sent a clear message that Justin’s view is not the view of many Christians.  We need to carry on making this clear.
Talk to your elders. Hang a banner outside showing opposition to the air strikes. Talk to the children about nonviolence in Sunday School.
We need to show our support to local Muslim communities, who will no doubt become more and more marginalised. Extend the hand of interfaith friendship and let them know you realise that the atrocities being committed by extremists do not reflect Islam.

Here’s a prayer you might like to use in a vigil, a service, or in private prayer:

Christ, grant us your peace.
Help us find ways and means
Which bring safety and hope,
Not exacerbation of suffering.

Bear with us as we make mistakes,
Are slow to act and quick to wage war.
Help us to see people, not problems
And to seek justice, not victory.

Teach us to mend broken structures of power,
To hold leaders to account, to take our place in decision-making and
to stand up to violence and its preparation.

Amen

Publicity: marches and media
If you can, join Pax Christi’s vigil for Peace on 2nd October.  Stop the war have another March in London on 4th October at Temple Place at 1pm.

Speak to the media: there are conversations going on on the radio about it and we need to make sure the anti-war side is represented and has a loud voice.

Try calling LBC (London’s Biggest Conversation on 97.3 FM, telephone number 0345 60 60 973) & BBC Radio 5 Live (AM: 693 kHz, 909 kHz, telephone number 0500 909693.) For a list of local BBC stations, including in London – http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/stations

If you see more useful information, or related events, let us know and we’ll put them up.

FoR postcard answers

You may have picked up one of our postcards with a quick quiz on. If you missed them, here’s what we were asking:

1. How many conscientious objectors were there in WWI?

2. How much is spent  in the UK on
militarising school education?

3. How many nuclear weapons are there in the world?

4. Who said, “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”?

5. Which area is endorsed more by the UK government: health or “defence”?

 

If you don’t want to know the answers, look away now…

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The answers?  Some are simpler than others.

1.  There were around 20,000 conscientious objectors in the UK during WWI.  In New Zealand there were 2,600 and in the USA there were 5,500.   Some COs died in prison. (1)  Figures for other countries are harder to find, but there was a widespread movement of resisting war across Europe and thousands of women took part in relief work.

2.  It’s hard to put an exact figure on it.  But here are some things which contribute to it:

  • £10.85million expanding Combined Cadet Forces in state schools (2)
  • £3.3million on “alternative provision with a military ethos” delivered by military people, for children permanently excluded from school. (2)
  • £250million spent by the MoD on “youth engagement” – ie recruitment.   Britain is the only country in the EU to recruit children into the military. (2)
  • £1.9million on Troops to Teachers – retraining ex-military as teachers.  This hasn’t worked out quite as well as planned, despite Gove saying that, “Every child can benefit from the values of a military ethos.” (3)

3.  Britain alone has around 200 nuclear warheads, housed in its four Trident submarines in Scotland. (4) and (5)  The nine states which have nuclear weapons clock up around 17,000 warheads – enough to obliterate the Earth a few times over and many of which are reay to be deployed at the flick of a switch.(5) and (6)

4.  United Nations Secretary-General, BAN Ki-moon, speaking in 2012 at the opening of the UN conference in Mexico. (7)  He went on to talk about how we need to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

5.  Given how much the NHS is being carved up and sold to the highest bidder, and considering the support the military gets in schools, it’s hardly difficult to see whether health or war, sorry defence, are supported more by “our” government.    The arms trade is subsidised by £700million per year and our new Foreign Secretary is the old Defence Secretary, so clearly there are loads of transferable skills between snuggling up with the military and talking with our neighbours.

 

So, how many did you get right?  Free copy of Outside Holiness – The spirituality of Resistance  to the first person to tell us that they scored 100%.

 

(1)(http://wwionline.org/articles/conscientious-objection-during-world-war-i/)

(2) http://www.quaker.org.uk/sites/default/files/Educate-and-disarm-web.pdf

(3) http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/aug/05/troops-to-teachers-not-putting-ex-soldiers-in-classrooms

(4) http://actionawe.org/invitation-to-join-action-awe/

(5) http://www.icanw.org/the-facts/nuclear-arsenals/

(6) http://www.wmdawareness.org.uk/the-facts/nuclear-weapons/

(7) http://www.un.org/disarmament/update/20120830/

RUSI airpower conference

Event info from the RUSI airpower conference vigil on 9th July.  There are very good reports of it at the bottom of the page.

For press release click here.

Rusi air 2

 

So Church House conference centre is at it again: yet another arms-sponsored event.  A venue in Westminster owned by the church and raising revenue for the CofE.  The church investment policy rules out the majority of the sponsors, yet if they possibly can profit from these companies, they will. All this whilst ejecting disabled protesters from their land. Not much of a message of peace, huh?

This time, BAE, Lockheed, Finmeccanica et al will fund a conference of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a military think tank.  The “brains of the MoD” as someone put it.  In an article in the Church Times (27 June) about FoR and Pax Christi’s recent vigil outside the last arms-sponsored conference held at Church House just last month, the CofE, in an act of very poor impartiality, said that,

“The RUSI is a long-established and respected independent think tank.   As a research body and policy forum, it provides independent thinking and objective analysis on issues relating primarily to security and defence.”

This is not independent thought.  This is facilitating better and more contracts for arms dealers.  This is preparation for war.

It is cause for concern when the church defends an institution which goes hand-in-hand with arms trade sponsorship.  Saab sponsor their Land Warfare events.  Thales fund the Sea Power conferences.  Missile makers MBDA and drones manufacturers BAE sponsor Air Power conferences.

The conference is 9th-10th July, starting at 12pm.  We’ll have a vigil of resistance for an hour during registration on the first day (Wednesday), while people in military uniform are walking in to cosy up with arms dealers in Church property.

MEET OUTSIDE METHODIST CENTRAL HALL AT 10:45 to split into two groups.

Bring your friends. Bring your dog. Bring people you haven’t seen for a year but know they too want arms dealers out of the church.

If there are enough of us, we’ll gather then split into two groups to cover (prayerfully, not blocking) both entrances: one opposite Methodist Central Hall, the other round the back on Great Smith St.

Bring banners!  No need to keep them polite but nothing abusive – we’re all about the nonviolence, yo.

For ideas of what you can do before the day, whether or not you’re able to come, see the Action Sheet: Word document (save to view) or PDF (click to view).

Sign the petition, which will go to Justin Welby, here: http://act.caat.org.uk/lobby/churchhouse

More info including for a copy of the press release email emma@for.org.uk or call 01865 250781

Read a couple of great write-ups by Ekklesia and Symon Hill.

Vigil at church house #Land

Photo: Dan Barnes-Davies for FoR England

Photo: Dan Barnes-Davies for FoR England

 

The vigil outside the RUSI Land Warfare conference today was a success, hoorah!  Eight Christians turned out for a vigil in protest against Church House (owned by the CofE) hosting a military conference funded by arms dealers.

We were asked to move a few times (including a warning about calling the police), but the most entertaining was from the security chappy sporting a British Legion pin and a Help for Heroes lanyard.  He asked us to move because “political protests” were not allowed on the private land.  Clearly, raising money for those injured by weapons is a completely different, non-political matter to objecting to their production in the first place.

A man from RUSI offered us the chance to go inside and take part in the conference.  We politely turned down his offer, saying we’d rather draw attention to the sponsorship rather than sit at the back while it goes ahead.  One of our number, Christian writer Symon Hill, asked whether we could come to the “Chief of Air Staff’s Air Power Conference” on the 9th July.   He was more hesitant about that, so we’ll follow up with an email and see if we are allowed to see what of sort event BAE, Lockheed, Finmeccanica et al are funding.  We’re fairly confident it’s not going to be non-military attitudes to conflict transformation.

Other than that, the general public were curious about what we were speaking out against, many took photos and lots of thumbs-up.  They seemed as surprised as we were that a church building welcomes arms dealers…

We then went to Methodist Central Hall for breakfast and were asked to leave our banners in the porch, “because the church has to be neutral at all times”.  Says who?!*

Do come to the vigil at the (sigh) next arms-sponsored conference at Church House, on 9th July at 10:45am. 

*I wonder if they know about the great stuff the Methodist church does about arms and violence in general?

The event was covered in the Church Times:

no. 7893, p9

no. 7893, p9

Silent Vigil – Land Warfare conference

RUSI, the military think tank, have a history of organising arms-sponsored conferences in Church House, a conference centre which raises money for the Church of England and under the care of the Archbish.  The CofE’s investment policy rules out arms manufacturers, so we’re baffled as to why they’re happy to host a conference sponsored by weapons makers let alone profit from it.

Two years ago, there was a conference about “The Future of Air Power”, to which many people objected:

Church house 2

However, despite many letters, newspaper articles and general nonviolent fist-waving, they’re hosting TWO MORE.  The first is tomorrow, on the wonderful theme of “Land Warfare”.  More info on their website.

Join FoR, Pax Christi, Christianity Uncut, Ekklesia and CAAT Christian Network on Tuesday 24th June at 8am for a silent prayer vigil to welcome the delegates to the two-day conference.

We’ve written to various people in charge of bookings at Church House, so let’s hope they decide to cancel the Air Power conference on 9th-10th July.  Its sponsors include (you couldn’t make this stuff up) BAE, Lockheed Martin, Finmeccanica and General Atomics.  Looks like it’ll be about drones, then.

The arms trade supports conferences like this in order to push for more military intervention and “security” rather than funding nonviolent methods of conflict transformation.  While we recognise the humanity of each and every arms dealer, their profession has no place in a house of prayer.

There are facebook events where details will appear: For the Land warfare vigil and the Air Power conference.

Symon Hill, Christian activist and author of Digital Revolutions: Activism in the Internet Age commented:

“Two years ago, thousands of people, including many Anglicans, voiced their dismay at the willingness of Church House to host an arms dealers’ conference. I met with a senior member of Church House staff and shared my concerns. Now, it’s happening again. The Christian Church cannot be neutral in the face of sins such as militarism and the arms trade. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, resisted injustice with active nonviolence. Let’s seek to give our loyalty to the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Love, not the idols of money and militarism.”

COME AND JOIN THE VIGIL!

Pilgrims for Peace – a reflection

Chris Collins is one of our new trustees and came to the island of Iona for FoR’s centenary celebrations.  He is a Methodist minister in Wolverhampton and ponders here what challenges he will be taking away from a week on a remote island with other peacemakers.  You are encouraged to leave a response underneath.

Tertullian, the prolific third century Christian writer viewed the moment Jesus told Peter to put his sword away as an “ungirding of us all.” We are all to put our swords away and follow the way of peace and nonviolence. As I was reminded of that during our “Pilgrimage for Peace” as part of the Iona Community last week, I reminded myself that being a disciple means I have to be for peace and peacemaking. It is not an optional extra, an add-on if there is time. It is not other-worldly but completely of this world. Peace making is a response to the whole of creation groaning in pain, waiting to be saved from the ravages of destruction. Peacemaking is about allowing the kingdom of God to be seen. Peacemaking is recognising that we are all made in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully. Peacemaking is about allowing us all to find and flourish in God’s love for us and the whole of creation.

So to say I am a peacemaker is all well and good. But if peace is to come, we actually have to make it! And that means I have to do something!

I think it means I have to lay some things down. I need to constantly challenge what I am told about the world and ask myself, through which eyes do I view things? For this we need reliable and credible information about places and situations that goes beyond the news headlines.

But what do I do once I have the information? While praying and acting are perhaps the obvious answers, the less obvious and more challenging is exactly how! I had a few thoughts while away on Iona and perhaps others will have similar or better ones…

Could we be organised to pray without ceasing for peace? Could we invite people to commit to a dedicated half-hour slot each week to pray for peace so that there was always someone praying? Could we hold regular peace prayer services in all of our churches?

Could we encourage each other to write specifically about peace issues to our local, national and European politicians – and plan our responses to the letters we receive back?

Both of these are good starting points for me but I wonder if I need to be a braver peace-maker and be bold enough to take nonviolent action myself? For if I don’t who will? If I don’t do it now, when will I?

But how about you? I wonder if you are going to do different things now? Let’s keep talking, encouraging each other to pray and to act for peace.

Ukraine statement

The Chant d’ Oiseau Statement on Ukraine

We, representatives of the European branches of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, meeting from 23rd – 25th May at Chant d’Oiseau in Brussels,

(1) Contemplated with dismay the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.

(2) As European pacifists encourage all those in the region who are working for peace. Especially we express our solidarity with all those directly affected who are resisting the pressures towards polarisation and recourse to violence.

(3) Urge not only all in the region but also our own governments to resist thinking in terms of military “solutions”.

(4) Feel that we ourselves have to engage with this situation and we take back to our branches the question of how we co-ordinate our action to explore non-violent solutions.

-And-

(5) Even while we were meeting, our attention was captured by a horror closer at hand when we heard the news of the multiple murder in the Jewish Museum here in Brussels. We express our condolences to and solidarity with the Jewish community of Brussels and Belgium in the face of this atrocity.

BAE AGM (BTW)

BAE AGM 2014 cropped
Apologies for all the TLAs.

Yesterday, peace activists swamped the AGM of the UK’s biggest arms manufacturers. It was glorious.

This is the one day a year when members of the public can put their concerns to BAE Systems and attempt to work out just how they can do what they do. Many peace activists purchase one single share (and shred any cheque for dividends) in order to be able to attend this airport-security-level event. This year and last were the first in a while to be held outside Central London – in Farnborough, Hampshire. BAE claim that this is to save on costs (it’s held at their HQ in an old hangar and isn’t exactly snazzy) but we reckon they want to keep the press away. Reduced numbers of shareholders able to get there meant that a large proportion of attendees were employees of BAE, wanting to make up numbers and put bums on seats. The board (12 people consisting of a pitiful two women) sat at the front on raised stands – clearly making weapons gets you the best seat in the house.

95% of the questions to the board came from people wondering if BAE used their noggin at all when instructed for whom to make weapons…answer: no. They follow the law, therefore they’re ethical. They were also asked what impact the upcoming reforms to the arms trade treaty would have on their business. They predicted no effect. The person posing the question, Quaker Symon Hill, suggested that, if the treaty won’t make the world’s third largest arms manufacturer step into line, it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Note-worthy disturbances came in the form of clucking noises when *Sir* Roger Carr avoided a question; eruptions of sudden and unexplained coughing fits coincided with any mention of their glowing ethical credentials. There was some heroic singing efforts, including some dressed up as cheerleaders and others serenading the new chairman, wondering why he’d turned bad. Roger showed signs of tiring and suggested that the “pantomime act” was very silly, to which we responded, “ohhhhh no it isn’t!”. Next year we’ll bring the theatrical horse…

The line of questioning was deadly serious, in line with their deadly business. BAE says they sell weapons only to allies and do so “in good faith”. When it’s obvious that the weaponry is being used to repress people and BAE is asked to service the equipment, do they comply and send it back in, shiny and ready for more human rights abuse? Yes. Yes they do. Almost amusingly, when asked by FoR staff whether they’d ever turn down a weapons contract from the British government in the interest of public security (with regards to redistributing the “defence” budget), we were told that the NHS has been ring-fenced and is safe. Well, you heard it here first.

BAE disclosed that they spend around £1m a year on branding events like the Big Bang Fair. This was in response to a question about whether it was responsible to be conspicuous at children’s events in the same way that tobacco firms aren’t allowed in, but Roger assured them that it’s not the same – BAE isn’t trying to sell kids weapons…just trying to get them to make them in the future. Much better.

There were many requests from shareholders to focus more on the non-arms-related work that BAE carries out, which currently makes up just 8% of their activity. Roger said that this was his aim – so there is some hope. However for as long as BAE continues to make weapons, they can expect to come up against resistance from those who oppose war and its preparation.

Bear BAE
There was a write-up in the Christian think tank Ekklesia about the day’s events and highlighting some of the finer points of irony.

It was also covered by the Morning Star.

Check out #BAE2014 for what people have tweeted about the event.

 

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