Ash Wednesday prayers at the MoD

Peace campaigners from Leamington Spa

Peace campaigners from Leamington Spa

By: Jo Siedlecka

A record number of people braved freezing rain yesterday, Ash Wednesday, to take part in the annual procession and prayer vigil outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London. Their message was clear: get rid of nuclear weapons/support the Nuclear Ban Treaty!

Organised by Pax Christi, Christian CND and London Catholic Worker, participants included students from Trinity Catholic School, Leamington Spa, members of the National J&P Network and Westminster J&P, Assumption Sisters, Columban missionaries, Passionists, St Louis Sisters and a number of other parish and faith groups from around the country. Representatives from a South Korean peace organisation and Japanese Buddhist monks and nuns from the Battersea Peace Temple also took part.

At a liturgy in Embankment Gardens, ashes were blessed by A&B priest Fr Rob Esdaile, and distributed before the group processed to the MoD, led by Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi. On arrival they placed a large sheet of sackcloth directly in front of the entrance, with the word REPENT written in ashes.

On 7 July 2017, 122 countries voted in favour of the first-ever treaty Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at the UN. 73 did not. That meeting was boycotted by all nuclear-armed nations the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.

During a time of silence, participants tied ribbons to the railings in front of the MoD - white for those who have signed and black for those who didn't. They then prayed for a conversion of heart. saying: "Grant us the wisdom and courage to turn back to you, to abolish nuclear weapons and to seek true security built on justice, respect for human life and the protection of creation in accordance with your will."

After a reading from Joel Chapter 2, a member of Christian CND read: "Possession of nuclear weapons is now unequivocally condemned by Pope Francis and many other Christian and religious leaders. Yes our nation holds them ready, a threat of unspeakable humanitarian crimes to be done on our behalf; and cannot think beyond outdated cold war deterrence policy. Are we ourselves thus enslaved by nuclear weapons, possessed by them in so many ways?"

This was followed by a litany of prayers as crosses and banners were held high.

The event concluded with a reading of an extract from Pope Francis' Message for World Day of Peace 2018:

'The threat of their use as well as their very posession, is to be firmly condemned. For the exist in the service of a menatility of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire himan race. International relations cannot be held captove to miliotgary force, mutual intimidation, and the paarading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of rthe himan family, which must rather be inspred by an ethics of solidarity.'

And the following passage from the Faith Leaders on the Nobel Peace Award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons:

'There is a need for creative political leadership to ensure that any attempt to justify the threat of mass destruction in any circumstance is wholly rejected.

A world free of nuclear weapons achieved by building on established international norms is a global public good of the highest order. No country or government must allow itself to be left behind. Therefore, we call on the UK government to add its support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.'

Participants took sunflower seeds home to plant as a symbol of a nuclear-free world.

Several more peace events will be taking place throughout the year. For more details check ICN's Listings page or see:

There are more pictures on ICN's Facebook page.

Read an interview in the Mirror with Bruce Kent about 60 years of CND here:

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