Christians will gather at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall London today, Ash Wednesday, to challenge the morality and legality of government policy on nuclear weapons. Members of Catholic Peace Action and Pax Christi have been gathering in this way since 1984 to urge the government to build security through a commitment to justice and actions that recognise the dignity of each person rather than through fear and the strength of nuclear arms. During the day acts of nonviolent civil disobedience will take place as people risk arrest by marking the building with blessed ash and charcoal, traditional symbols of repentance used on Ash Wednesday. A liturgy, which begins in Embankment Gardens at 2.30pm, will then take people to a series of stops in Horseguards Avenue where the trials and crucifixion of Christ will be recalled as a way of witnessing to the love of God in the face of violence and cruelty in our world. There is an even greater urgency to challenge nuclear weapons this year as the Government is actively planning to develop and deploy another generation of British nuclear weapons after the existing Trident submarine system is decommissioned. This move is in opposition to our commitment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament" (Art.VI) Writing in his World Peace Day message in January of this year Pope Benedict XVI said: "What can be said about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament." These words will be used as part of the liturgy on Ash Wednesday.
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