Ash Wednesday peace vigils

 Today is the 20th year of nonviolent civil disobedience and prayer at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. Campaigners will be drawing attention to the British government's continued commitment to nuclear war preparations. They said in a statement: "While our government makes demands on Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, our own Defence Secretary has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq. "During the day people will be mark the building with blessed ash and charcoal with words such as: 'Repent' and 'Choose Life.' These actions may lead to arrests. Ash Wednesday is chosen as the day when we can link personal need for and expression of repentance with a call to the nation to turn away from the sin of nuclear war preparations." At the same time there will be a Christian liturgy, beginning in Embankment Gardens (between Horseguards Ave and the Embankment tube station) and continuing around the Ministry of Defence Buildings in Horseguards Avenue. The liturgy begins at 3.00 pm. A Pax Christi spokesperson said: "Our action and prayer are all the more urgent as the world is at the brink of war with Iraq. Pope John Paul II has called the world to offer special prayers for peace this Ash Wednesday. Our prayer is that the British government will turn away from a defence policy that is reliant on nuclear weapons and live up to its own obligations to disarm." The event is supported by Pax Christi, Catholic Peace Action and Christian CND. There will be similar liturgies in Liverpool - procession from St Luke's Church to the Army recruitment office in the city Centre from 1.30pm and Albermarle, Newcastle - a stop over base for the nuclear convoy, at 7.00 pm. For further information on London event contact Pat Gaffney on 020 8203 4884 or on the day 0780 821 8822. For Liverpool contact Joe O'Grady 0151 521 6527 and for Albermarle contact Christine Wickens 0191 281 4168