UK-wide protests for peace in Iran

  • Jo Siedlecka

Pat Gaffney, (left) and Fr Joe Ryan (centre) with campaigners in Trafalgar Square

Pat Gaffney, (left) and Fr Joe Ryan (centre) with campaigners in Trafalgar Square

Members of Pax Christi, Christian CND, Westminster J&P and Quakers joined around 2,000 people in London on Saturday, to protest against the threat of war in Iran. Organised by the Stop the War coalition, the march began at BBC Broadcasting House in Langham Place, went down Regent Street - which is still decorated with Christmas angels - and ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square. Hundreds of people also protested in Liverpool, Newcastle, Chesterfield, Harrogate, Manchester, Sheffield and Bristol.

The demonstrations came after President Trump authorised the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Friday last week. That act of war sparked a chain of violent responses. There were Iranian missile strikes on US bases in Iraq. Dozens of people were crushed to death in crowds attending the General's funeral; then at least 176 people were killed as Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane. Both Iranian leaders and President Trump threatened further retaliation.

Marchers in London said they determined to stand against the horror and destruction that a war with Iran would bring.

Fr Joe Ryan, former chair of Westminster Justice and Peace and parish priest at St John Vianney's in West Green, tweeted: "Again the plea was: no to war in Iran... we hope and pray that there is an end to violence. Dialogue and talks are preferable to war. I see in today's papers that there is a raise of £14 billion in the sale of arms since the events in Baghdad and Tehran. What a disaster we are facing?"

Pat Gaffney, recently retired chair of Pax Christi carried a banner with the words of Pope Francis saying: "No war with Iran. Avoid an escalation of the conflict. Keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint. Respect international law."

Addressing the crowds in Trafalgar Square, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "There is no excuse for shooting down an airliner. And there is no excuse for targeted assassination by one state against another."

He called for "talks and negotiations" with Iran. But he also called for Britain to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and in "every conflict the region." He blamed the situation in the Middle East on the West's invasion of Iraq in 2003, which he opposed with the Stop the War coalition at the time.

"We said the consequences of a war in Iraq will lead to the wars of tomorrow. That will lead to the terrorism of tomorrow. That will lead to the ruination of people's lives of tomorrow. And that will lead to the refugees of tomorrow," he said.

Mr Corbyn also called for the release of jailed British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He urged the UK government "not to immediately side with the United States whatever the questions put before them" and "not to put ourselves into hock to President Trump because of a trade deal." Instead, he called for the UK to "stand up for international law, for peace and for justice all around the world."

CND vice president Bruce Kent, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year also spoke from the stage, saying: "We're here to work for justice, peace, equality amongst all peoples... so lets carry on however old you are."

* Peace Sunday take place on 19 January. The theme this year is Peace: A Journey of Hope. Pax Christi resources for parishes, schools and groups are available for download here:

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Tags: Iran, Bruce Kent, Stop the war, Jeremy Corbyn, Fr Joe Ryan, Pat Gaffney, Qassem Soleimani, Pax Christi, Peace, Quakers, Christian CND, Stop the War

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