Thousands pray and protest against renewal of Trident

Interfaith prayers at Hinde Street Methodist Church

Interfaith prayers at Hinde Street Methodist Church

An estimated 60,000 campaigners braved freezing temperatures in central London on Saturday, to take part in Britain's biggest anti-nuclear rally in a generation. From early morning, coaches began bringing groups in from Scotland, the north of England and Wales. Some protesters also came from Japan, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany to challenge UK government plans to renew Trident.

There was standing room only at an interfaith prayer service held in Hinde Street Methodist Church, ahead of the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.

Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford; Bishop Thomas McMahon, Catholic Bishop of Brentwood; Rachel Lampard, Vice President Designate, of the Methodist Church; Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain; Mohammed Kozbar, Vice President of the Muslim Association of Britain and Rev Nagase, from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Community, presented a multi faith statement on nuclear weapons at the start of the rally.

It reads: "Nuclear weapons are by their nature indiscriminate in their effect. Any use of nuclear weapons would have devastating humanitarian consequences, be incompatible with International Humanitarian Law and violate the principle of dignity for every human being that is common to each of our faith traditions. Our world faces many challenges including oppressive poverty, climate change, violent extremism and emerging national rivalry. Addressing these challenges requires strong relationships across nations, founded on mutual co-operation, trust and shared prosperity. Security policies based on the threat of the use of nuclear weapons are immoral and ultimately self-defeating.

"We must move beyond the division of our world into nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states and ensure that all states make good their commitment to negotiations on the universal, legally verifiable and enforceable elimination of nuclear weapons. We call on all nuclear weapon states to join in this endeavour. We urge these states and the international community to develop a robust plan of action that will lead us to a world free of nuclear weapons."

Bruce Kent, vice president of CND said "there is no good argument for keeping Trident." He told the crowds that successive Popes have spoken out against nuclear weapons. In his historic speech before the United Nations General Assembly, on 25 September 2015, Pope Francis called for the "complete prohibition" of nuclear weapons, and condemned the doctrine of deterrence as "an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations." He encouraged the international community to work to fulfil both the letter and the spirit of the Non Proliferation Treaty, which demands complete disarmament.

The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, said: "Let's cut £167 billion by not renewing the Trident system. There is the moral argument, there is the practical argument, there is the financial argument and I would so much rather see those billions of pounds spent on conventional forces - on health, on education, on giving our children the best start in life."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the last of more than 20 speakers who addressed the crowds. He told them: "I think we should just consider for a moment what a nuclear weapon actually is. It is a weapon of mass destruction. If ever used it can only kill large numbers of civilians.

"They've only once been used in war and that was in Japan in 1945 and we still see the consequences, the cancers, the destruction and the horror of very old people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

"If a nuclear war took place there would be mass destruction on both sides of the conflict...Everyone should think about the humanitarian effects on people across this globe if they're ever used.

"We live in a world where so many things are possible. Where peace is possible in so many places. You don't achieve peace by planning for war, grabbing resources and not respecting each other's human rights. Today's demonstration is an expression of many people's opinions and views. I'm here because I believe in a nuclear-free Britain and a nuclear-free future.

"Thank you for coming to this demonstration, thank you for showing that you care and thank you showing you want a peaceful future for this country and the rest of the world."

Many participants carried placards with phrases including 'Books Not Bombs', 'Cut War Not Welfare' and 'NHS Not Trident'.

Catholic student David Marston, 19, from Exeter told ICN: " Our health service is struggling, students are getting into huge debt in order to study; more and more people are homeless, and yet they want to spend £100bn on something that can only lead to the destruction of life on Earth. It's not right."

Joanna Berkley, 73, a Quaker from north London said: "We are all praying and hoping that the Government will hear us today. It would be immoral and a tragic waste of taxpapers' money to renew Trident now. Yes some jobs might be lost but the money could be invested in other projects that would bring more employment."

Tags: Bruce Kent, Jeremy Corbyn, nuclear weapons, Trident

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