Author Fr Gerard Hughes SJ, was called as a defence witness on the third day of the peace protest trial at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday. Susan van der Hijden and Fr Martin Newell, are charged on two counts of criminal damage, during their protest at RAF Wittering November. (see ICN 22 & 23 May). During the morning, Ms van der Hijden, who is defending herself, explained that she reached the decision to try to disarm the nuclear convoy, after years working with refugees. Aside from the threat the weapons posed, in the event of an accident, or if they were used, she said she realised their existence was already causing great poverty because money that could be used for development was instead spent on weapons. She then described the ease with which she and Fr Newell had entered the base. A door had been left open and lights were on in the building containing the convoy truck. In the afternoon, Mrs Barbara Sunderland, a grandmother, retired headmistress and co-chair of Christian CND, was called as a witness and asked to describe her work with 'Nukewatch' - an organisation which monitors nuclear convoy movements round the country. She said these convoys regularly left Wittering and often parked in a layby yards from the Lister Hospital. She also vouched for Ms van der Hijden's good character. Then Fr Hughes was called, but the judge would not allow him to answer Ms van der Hijden's questions, as he said they were not relevant to the case. Later, Fr Hughes said: "Martin and Susan have infringed the laws against trespass and criminal damage. They have admitted this. They are guilty under the law. It is the duty of the law to protect us. But if the law doesn't protect us and is putting the world in great danger, what are we to do? "The Romans had a saying - if you want peace - prepare for war. But Christians see things differently. Jesus shows us his wounds and says 'peace be with you'. He shows us his vulnerability. It is important to look the thinking behind what Martin and Susan are doing and how it fits in with Catholic social teaching. They draw attention to the links between world poverty and nuclear weapons and demonstrate how these links reinforce unjust social systems." The case continues...
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