UK Christians take part in nonviolent blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment

(Photo: Reuters / Chip East)Demonstrators stand behind a sign during an anti-nuclear weapons protest rally and march in New York May 2, 2010. On the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the UN, thousands of nuclear abolitionists from the U.S., Japan, Europe and other nations rallied, marched and joined a peace festival at the UN.

Members of Pax Christi, the international Catholic movement for peace, were among hundreds of others who have taken part in a nonviolent blockade of Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield in Reading, England on Monday.

AWE Burghfield is one of two factories involved in the loading of nuclear warheads, the UK-based think tank Ekklesia reported on March 2.

"Pax Christi is supporting this blockade with a 'faith-based' presence ," the Catholic peace group said on its website on March 2.

AWE Aldermaston produce the components and AWE Burghfield assembles them. Nuclear warheads move up and down between AWE Burghfield and Faslane submarine base in Scotland.

The whole event is the initiative of Action AWE who hope that this will be the beginning of a more sustained blockade of the work of AWE Burghfield.

Pax Christi is coordinated a Christian presence at one of the entrances to the site where there were formal prayers offered on the hour and silent prayer every half hour to take account of the varying traditions of those taking part.

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi said, "This is the third witness we have made since January in our on-going challenge to the UKs nuclear weapons policy and Trident in particular.

"This is a critical time – the run-up to a General Election and also a time when decisions will be made in the months ahead as to whether to replace the existing Trident nuclear weapons programme.

"Christians must act now to make it clear that nuclear weapons have no place in maintaining true security for our country or our world. We write letters, we sign petition and sometimes we need to take direct action to interrupt the 'business as usual' of nuclear war preparations."

Support for the blockade and witness has come from a variety of Christian leaders including Pax Christi's International General Secretary, Jose Henrique; from Bishop Thomas Mc Mahon.

Mc Mahon said, "In my view it is obscene to contemplate spending 100 billion pounds (British) on replacing Trident when there are so many other pressing needs."

Trident is the British nuclear armaments program..

From Liverpool in northwest England, Bishop Paul Bayes wrote, "Christians are called to speak clearly, calmly and powerfully for peace. From time to time we are also called to stand up for peace, or to sit down for it. The replacement of Trident is a matter for national discussion and decision."

Pax Christi was joined by members of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Fellowship of Reconciliation and others.

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