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Image: Life after Trident


17/02/2017

In our latest blog Frances Gallagher, our Campaigns and Communications Officer gives her thoughts on her attendance at the recent Helensburgh CND conference.


Opponents of nuclear disarmament would have you believe that there would be no life after Trident for the local communities around Faslane and Coulport were the nuclear base there removed.  According to this school of thought the local economy would slip into oblivion should these weapons of mass destruction disappear from our shores.

 Well, had those who are inclined to think this way attended the CND conference in Helensburgh this month, they may well have been surprised at the confidence and enthusiasm with which the local people and politicians spoke of their ideas for the future without Trident.

Could it be that the old message of stagnation and despair calculated to frighten people all over the world into accepting the presence of nuclear weapons no longer stacks up, and that in fact we have reached a turning point in the critical will of the people to live in a world without nuclear weapons?

At the CND conference we heard from local MSP Ronnie Cowan on how we should “dare to dream of a future without nuclear weapons, and how we are “only limited by our own imagination” when it comes to the possibilities to transform this beautiful part of Scotland into somewhere that business and tourists alike would want to come.

With the footprint as it stands at Faslane the site is ideally placed to become a possible non nuclear headquarters for defence in Scotland and ideal for the training of special forces. 

Free of the menacing presence of the nuclear submarines, river based traffic such as cruise ships and ferries could once again take up occupancy on the Gare Loch and Loch Long with all the economic gain that would bring to the local area. 

Outward bound centres also would be attracted to the area with opportunities for children from deprived inner city backgrounds to experience all the outdoor activities this landscape has to offer. A nature or conservation reserve where school children and adults alike could come to learn about birds of prey, deer, otters and heron.

Even the current bunkers, deep within the mountains of the Roseneath Peninsula, are ripe for conversion and could be transformed for storage from anything from wine to computer servers to provide super efficient internet access to the wider area.

Far from devastating the local area, the removal of trident is necessary for the area to realise its potential.  It is the presence of Trident that is stifling the local economy.

Thanks to our friends across the Atlantic sharing with us their American freedom of information, we now know that a Trident missile test recently failed, sending the missile in the wrong direction. We also now know that two nuclear submarines crashed in the firth of Clyde during the cold war.  All of this we don’t learn from our own government.  They, it would seem only to want to warn us of the dangers of not having nuclear weapons right on our doorstep.

We are on the cusp of a landmark decision by the UN to ban nuclear weapons.  The UN will convene in New York in March 2017 and then again in June and July to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.  As was done with the landmine treaty and the cluster munition ban treaties, a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty will start the process of prohibiting and eliminating these devastating weapons of mass destruction.

Nuclear weapon states India, Pakistan and China will participate in the New York conference and North Korea have already voted for the resolution. We need now to persuade the UK government to get on board and commit to a future without nuclear weapons.

You can write now to your MP/MSP and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urging the UK Government to take an active part in the UN meetings in New York in March and July. Email Boris here

You can also follow this link to sign the petition to urge the UK Government to participate in the UN conference to negotiate a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. More information can also be found here

These are exciting times…I am inspired, with the people who live in the shadow of Trident, to dream of an exciting nuclear-free future..

 



Image: We can come out from under the bushel


10/02/2017

Marian Pallister, Justice & Peace Scotland’s representative on the Scottish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Committee for Inter-Religious Dialogue, offers a personal view on the UN’s acceptance of the value of faith groups. 

 

In Matthew V, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world. He quips that ‘no-one lights a lamp to put it under a tub’ and He points out, ‘…your light must shine in the sight of men, so that seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven’. Our problem for so long is that as Christians (and I think Muslims, Jews and Sikhs are just as guilty), we have hidden our light. And that has led to us being shut out of some of the most important negotiations that concern the world’s most vulnerable people.


What was once seen as the work of religious organisations – education, alleviating poverty, health care – became politicised in the second half of the 20th century. Religion became a dirty word. I know from personal involvement in a charity that supports the education of vulnerable young people in Zambia that some of the major funders won’t consider organisations with the merest smidgeon of a religious connection.

Now, it seems, the United Nations may change all of that. According to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, there has been a realisation that religious organisations do have a role to play in the development of our world, and in the promotion of justice and peace.

The Archbishop was in Edinburgh to speak on the subject of inter-faith harmony at the Archdiocesan Offices, and delegates from many faiths attended the event, which was held in the wake of President Trump’s travel ban, ironically announced in the UN’s Interfaith Harmony Week.

This first week in February has been observed as Interfaith Harmony Week since 2010, but it isn’t one that is much publicised in mainstream media. As we know, the phrase ‘No news is good news’ is all too often interpreted as ‘Good news is no news’. When religion is used to justify acts of violence it makes banner headlines – but when religion is used to make a positive difference in the world and people of different faiths work together to make that difference, that news is too often ignored.

Interesting, then, that when Justice and Peace Scotland posted a link on Facebook to a Guardian story about Canadians forming rings of peace around mosques to protect worshippers after the violent attack in Quebec, we got our biggest (and most positive) reaction of the year so far. The basis of Interfaith Harmony Week is ‘Love of God, love of neighbour’ and the Canadians gave witness to both in their reactions.

Archbishop Auza explained that for too long, non-government organisations (NGOs) with a religious connection had been offering to collaborate with the UN on issues of health, poverty, literacy and harmony through inter-religious dialogue, and the UN had turned a deaf ear. Since 2015, however, he has been involved in UN-organised inter-religious consultative panels - progress is being made and the climate is clearly changing.

‘The UN has had to realise the importance of inter-religious dialogue for peace and development,’ Archbishop Auza said.

And he added ‘Religion cannot be relegated to the mosques on Fridays, the synagogues on Saturdays and the churches on Sundays. Religion is not just a private affair.’ So - we can bring the light out from under the tub. The UN has realised the relevance of people of different faiths talking together - and is even recruiting religious experts to advise on delivery of the 17 development goals that are on the world’s agenda from 2020 to 2030.

‘The UN and others,’ the Archbishop said, ‘have come to accept religious organisations as partners in seeking development and peace.’ And to realise that people of faith who love God and neighbour perhaps stand a better chance of achieving those goals than all the well-intentioned career peacemakers?



Image: Blessed are the Peacemakers


03/02/2017

In our blog, Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi UK, describes a new peace initiative


It is not often that I can actually feel that we are ‘getting somewhere’ in this long-haul journey of peacemaking. I guess I see myself as a plodder anyway, keeping on with the letter-writing, campaigning, production of resources, the “fruit of anxious daily care” that Pope Paul VI spoke of many years ago. The work we have to do whether we are effective or not.

But, there is a shift, a feel that we may just be tipping the balance on a breakthrough with our message of active peacemaking and nonviolence. Part of the shift is the person of Pope Francis – since his appointment in 2013 his words and actions for peace have been crystal clear: from nuclear weapons, Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations, to money making from the arms trade, We plead for peace for this world dominated by arms-dealers, who profit from the blood of men and women. His language reaches hearts and minds and is engaging people of faith, and people of no faith.

The ‘getting somewhere’ is the ground-breaking work coming out of the joint conference of Pax Chrsiti International and the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace last April which produced the Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence. This set the cat among the pigeons. Accusations came that the Church was being urged to ditch the Just War tradition. That the naïve pacifists were going to leave the world unguarded. To me, some of this seemed like deliberate mis-representation by those who unwilling to delve into the tradition and practice of active nonviolence and its value in creating long-lasting, sustainable peace.

The gathering offered concrete examples of how nonviolence is twice as effective as violence and is likely to produce more sustainable and democratic communities. The gathering gave a platform to practitioners of nonviolence like Fr Francisco de Roux from Colombia who has worked for justice and nonviolent change for more than twenty years. He challenged the Catholic Church for its support of the just war paradigm which has sustained so much violence in that country.

It was good also to hear of the painstaking work of dialogue and mediation in preventing the escalation of violence in countries like Sudan and Uganda and the DRC. The good news of church leaders and workers confronting those who use violence, facilitating conversations between warring groups, is little acknowledged yet this is politics for peace in action. In recent days the Bishops of DRC have been internationally thanked for the key role they are playing in trying to prevent a new civil war in that country.

Contributing to this ‘getting somewhere’, is the theme of the 2017 World Peace Day message, Nonviolence, a style of politics for peace. The first time in 50 years of messages that nonviolence has featured in a theme and been explored so deeply. Pope Francis gets it. He tells us that violence won’t cure the problems of our world. He reminds us that the Gospel, and the person of Jesus, are about nonviolence – setting out a radically different approaches. He highlights witness of those who show us that nonviolence is about action, risk-taking, confronting injustice, following in the footsteps of Jesus, Gandhi, Khaffer Khan, Martin Luther King jr, the peace women leaders of Liberia, the Christians of Eastern Europe who all brought about change through nonviolent means.

The door is ajar, our work is to push it wide-open by growing these ideas in our schools, parishes in the formation of Christians. Teaching about the active nonviolence of Jesus.

Training church workers in mediation and conflict resolution. Acting up against the arms trade and the mis-use of resources on warfare. This has become the work of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, to develop our imagination, our skills and our resources in the Church towards becoming ‘credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking’. (646)

 

Pat Gaffney has been General Secretary of the British Section of Pax Christi since 1990. She is a member of the on-going Catholic Nonviolence working group.

 

Endorse the Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to Gospel nonviolence 

World Peace Day Message 



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