Pax Christi's bi-annual Peace Award was given to four local peace activists on Saturday: Susan Clarkson from Oxford, Alison Williams from Wimbledon and Ann and Stewart Hemsley from Cambridge. It was presented during Pax Christi's AGM, by Jose Henrique, the new General Secretary from Pax Christi International.
The award is a beautiful medal reflects the work of Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salaam village in Israel for Israeli’s and Arabs to live together, established by the late Fr Bruno Hassar. One side shows the head of Abraham, father in faith to the Jewish and Muslim religions. The reverse shows the symbol of Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salaam , “ My people shall have an oasis of peace.
Susan is a long-term activist for peace and disarmament. Having worked for many years with CND and Pax Christi, she went to the USA to join the Catholic Worker movement, taking part in various direct actions against military installations. She also went to visit Afghanistan recently. Susan says: ’The example of Christ is clear; we cannot love neighbour or enemy without disarming ourselves. We cannot serve the poor without defending them against the violence of the state. We cannot affirm life without standing directly and non-violently in confrontation with all that deals death.’
Susan joined Catholic Workers in Oxford upon her return from the USA. Often you may see her kneeling in prayer, waiting to be arrested after cutting wire at Aldermaston or at Northwood, marking the MOD buildings at Whitehall, or blockading the gates at Aldermaston. In fact blocking the road can make you very vulnerable particularly if you have a severe visual handicap.
Susan also gives talks and writes about her experiences. On her visit to Afghanistan she had her hosts organise meetings with visually impaired people there, including the deputy director of Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in Kabul.
Susan said: "I am doing something God has wanted me to do."
Alison worked for peace, quietly, day in day out, over many years and without proper recognition. She has been with Pax Christi at least 40 years and she is most passionate about support for the United Nations.
Her roots are in New Zealand, she is widely travelled and qualified in many languages and actively promotes the spread of Esperanto. She recently spoke about her father working for the UN in London in 1945. Alison promotes the potential of the UN for global peacemaking.
Living in Wimbledon she is the co-organiser of the Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition / United Nations Association. She is admired for her calm authority when chairing meetings over hotly contested issues. She faithfully turns out for weekly vigils, giving talks to neighbouring church- or peace groups.
Alison has represented Pax Christi on many occasions at annual conferences of the United Nations Association, she contributes to the Movement for the Abolition of War, works with the Network for Peace and no doubt many other organisations. The Pax Christi award is to be seen as a long overdue tribute.
Ann and Stewart Hemsley
They have both been very active Pax Christi members, organising local events and present at innumerable local and national peace vigils and demonstrations, always with banners, beautifully hand written by Ann, with appropriate scriptural references. Stewart was often to be seen at these in sackcloth! Stewart offered his services to the Pax Christi Executive and was its Chair for many years, representing Pax on many occasions including monitoring elections in Turkey and Palestine. Helping to deliver peace education in local schools has also been part of their work.
Ann was involved with action against Cruise missiles, visiting Upper Heyford Airbase and Greenham Common.
Ann is well known in Cambridge and was responsible for forming the Cambridge Campaign for Peace, Campeace. Later in 2002, with one other townswoman, she started monthly silent vigils outside the Guild Hall, the so-called Women in Black, still regularly turning out with 6 to 8 participants. Stewart, on these occasions is classified as an honorary woman also taking part.
Many American airbases in East Anglia have been visited by Ann and Stewart, usually outside the perimeter fence to protest and to pray, but on one memorable occasion Stewart managed to drive onto the base to the astonishment of the guards at the gate.
Ann and Stewart are both very much concerned with the Palestinian situation and are members of the Cambridge Palestine Forum as well as Campeace. Stewart has for some years delivered lectures on the situation in the Middle East, at the U3A, University of the Third Age.
Stewart has also, for many years, taken the opportunity to visit Comberton College near Cambridge for annual lectures, together with a number of other peace activists. These visits are meant as a counterweight to recruitment drives by the military in schools and colleges.
Frequenting both Catholic Mass and Quaker meetings in Cambridge, they are bringing both communities closer together and keep ecumenism alive.
In Ann and Stewart we see a couple for whom the quotation, that they have often used in their witnesses for peace, is the foundation of their everyday life together: "peace is the fruit of anxious daily care, to see that each person lives in justice as God intends".
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