John Dear to speak at P&J AGM on Nonviolent Resistance in the Age of Trump

The Peace & Justice Centre is delighted to announce that John Dear will be our special guest speaker for our AGM on 13 July.

Long time activist, and movement organizer Fr. John Dear is the author of 35 books, including “Living Peace,” and “The Nonviolent Life.” He has been arrested more than 75 times. John was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and is Outreach Coordinator of Campaign Nonviolence which coordinates hundreds of actions for peace and the environment each year.

A Catholic priest, he has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the United States, and after September 11, 2001, as one of the Red Cross coordinators of chaplains at the Family Assistance Center in New York City, and counseled thousands of relatives and rescue workers. He has worked in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, traveled in warzones and been arrested over 75 times in acts of civil disobedience against war, including for a disarmament action – known as a Plowshares action.

John writes: “On Dec. 7, 1993, my friends Philip Berrigan, Lynn Fredriksson, Bruce Friedrich and I walked onto the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C. at 4am, passed through thousands of soldiers in the middle of full-scale national war games, came upon an F-15E nuclear capable fighter bomber and hammered upon it to fulfill Isaiah’s Advent prophecy that someday, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and study war no more.” John served nine months in prison with the renowned Catholic peace and disarmament activist Philip Berrigan for that action and was a very close friend of Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan.

John was a Jesuit priest for decades but was dismissed from the order for, according to the order, being “obstinately disobedient”.

In 2016 John took part in a Vatican conference called “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence” that included 80 participants from around the world who represented broad experiences in peacebuilding and active nonviolence in the face of violence and war.

The participants called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other “major teaching document,” reorienting the church’s teachings on violence. This led to the MESSAGE OF POPE
FRANCIS 
for the 50th World Day of Peace 
1 January 2017: Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace. 

Marie Denis, Co-President of Pax Christi International said Pope Francis makes “very clear” that active non-violence is not mere passivity or withdrawing from engagement in a very violent world. Rather, she says, It is a way of life and a spirituality, but also “a powerful set of tools to help us respond” to threats of extreme violence and danger. She says the Pope takes an important step in the direction of non-violence as a message for the Catholic community worldwide, showing that our way of engaging the world has to reflect the life and teachings of Jesus.

6pm. Informal gathering with light meal at the Peace and Justice Centre – an opportunity for networking and fellowship.

6:45pm John Dear’s talk at the Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace.

8:30pm. P&J AGM.

Please register to our Facebook or Eventbrite event and share to spread the word!

 

John will be co-leading a Reclaiming Gospel Nonviolence Conference 14—16 July 2017 at St. Mary’s Monastery, Kinnoull, Perth, PH2 7BP. For more info on the conference see HERE. 

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Fly Kites Not Drones in the Meadows Saturday

kite

Taking to the Skies to Protest  Armed Drones

This Saturday, the 25th of March, from 1 to 4pm students, families and local citizens will be making and flying kites in the Meadows as part of a Fly Kites Not Drones protest against the increasing use of armed drones and the danger they pose to civilians in conflicts from Somalia to Afghanistan.

This family friendly event will include kite making, kite decorating, free soup and facepainting, with live traditional music and even a demonstration of Tribal Belly Dancing and will be raising funds to support Refugee Community Kitchen, to feed refugees who so often are fleeing from these same wars.

There’s also a competition for best kite flying photo, best kite design and best short film (3 mins) posted to YouTube DEADLINE 31st March! email entries: kitesnotdrones[at]gmail.com

Hastings-FKND2-300x163Event organiser Lochlann Atack, a volunteer working with the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre said “Fly Kites Not Drones is a global project to raise awareness of the harms of militarised drones. It was initiated in Afghanistan by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, where young people fly kites every year on the 21st of March to celebrate the Nao Ruz, the New Year. Flying Kites at this time of year has become a symbol of resistance to the gross injustice of the mere presence of drones to innocent people. Where once blue skies presented the best conditions for the liberating, joyful activity of kite-flying, now they are feared, because they present the best conditions for militarised drones to identify targets.”

The annual Fly Kites Not Drones event organised in Edinburgh by Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre and now in its third year, is one of dozens of similar events taking place across the UK and globally, and aims to show solidarity with innocent people whose lives have been affected by them.

colourful kitesIt is a well-documented fact that drones routinely kill innocent people, and that drones have killed thousands of civilians. As of January 2017, drones operate in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. At least one in 8 people killed by drone strikes are civilians. Nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes were not the target and in the space of little over a decade, at least 242 children have been killed by drone strikes. 


Killer drones
have fast become the preferred weapon of choice for politicians who use them daily to conduct assassinations, execution without trial. A drone pilot is thousands of miles away, at the touch of a button and without judge or jury: people are executed. No right to a fair trial, no opportunity for legal defence or a chance to present evidence.

FKND poster 2017 - A5With the use of drones increasing exponentially with every new US administration, showing solidarity with their victims and voicing opposition has never been more apt.

All are invited to come along to the Meadows Saturday 25 March from 1 – 4pm and make and fly a kite, or bring your own. What better way to spend your Saturday afternoon?.

Follow  @EdinPandJ #FlyKitesNotDrones on Twitter for photos on the day. 

Please SHARE the Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/279873405766068/

For info on the Fly Kites Not Drones Demonstrations taking place across the UK and golbally see http://vcnv.org.uk/fly-kites-not-drones/fly-kites-not-drones-2017/ and http://www.flykitesnotdrones.org/

And for more info including a Fact sheet on armed drones see: http://www.flykitesnotdrones.org/drones

For More technical information on Drones see: https://dronewars.net/

For More info on Afghan Peace Volunteers see: http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/

For more info on the Fly Kites event in Edinburgh call the EP&JC on 0131 629 1058 or 07584492257

 

 

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How Ten Women Disarmed a War Plane: Book Talk Tonight at the P&J Centre

Tonight at the Peace and Justice Centre: Author Activist Andrea Needham tells the gripping inside account of how ten women disarmed a Hawk jet bound for genocide in East Timor – and were acquitted. Marking the 20th anniversary of the historic Seeds of Hope Ploughshares action.

hammer‘The heroic actions of this small, but determined, group of women is told brilliantly in Andrea Needham’s fascinating account…. You can sense just how much human life matters to each and every one of these women. They spent six months in jail for acting upon their consciences – but were eventually, and rightly, found to be innocent. Anyone interested in social change, or campaigning for peace, should read this book and take inspiration from the brave actions of these amazing women.’
– Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion

‘The Seeds of Hope East Timor Ploughshares action was one of the most imaginative and successful direct actions in modern-day Britain. It demonstrated that principle and courage are natural, crucial allies. Andrea Needham was part of that action, and her eagerly awaited book is now here. Read it and learn how to change the world.’ – John Pilger

hawkjetAndrea writes: “There were ten women in the Seeds of Hope group, some of us taking part in the action and others forming the support group. All of us were crucially important to the whole, and each of us could tell a different story about that momentous year. This is simply my story.

I disarmed the Hawk because I had done everything else in my power to stop these weapons being delivered to Indonesia. Together with thousands of others, I had written letters, signed petitions, handed out leaflets, marched, attended rallies, organised peace camps, taken part in nonviolent direct action.

Nothing had worked, and the planes were about to be delivered to Indonesia for use in East Timor, a tiny country where one third of the population had been killed in a campaign which Noam Chomsky has described as “the worst slaughter relative to population since the Holocaust”.

In that situation, with our government aiding and abetting genocide, what else could we do but disarm the weapons ourselves?”

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TRIDENT NO MORE Demonstrations Set for 30 Locations Across Scotland Saturday

With the UK Parliament set to vote Monday 18 July on renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system Demonstrations are being organised by the Scrap Trident Coalition in 30 towns and cities across Scotland at noon on Saturday 16 July calling for scrapping Trident instead.

trident-no-more-posterSo far the Trident No More Flash Demos have been announced from Wick to Dumfries, and from Largs to Edinburgh. The full list of locations of demonstrations and more information about how to organise a demo is here.

The Edinburgh demo will take place on The Mound at Princes St at noon.
If a Demo is not listed in your town or city why not organise one?  It only takes a few people with placards or a banner to create an event.

The main things to do are:
  •  identify a location and let us know where that is. Contact us using the webform here.
  • Chase up some local people and ask them to come to the demo. Contact friends or people through your networks, faith communities, trade unions …
  • Post details of location and time on the Facebook event page.
  • You can also create your own local Facebook event
  • Trident No More - Grey SubPrint out or make some placards by hand and a banner if someone can bring one.
  • There are graphics available to download for posters placards, leaflets and social media are here.
  • If possible contact local media.  A Template Press Release is available here. Or Draft and send out your own to local press. Or you can just ring up your local paper or radio station to a let them know the demo is one of manyTridentNoMore demos taking place across Scotland prior to the vote scheduled for Monday on Trident Replacement.
  • Taliking points for talking to the media are available here.
  • Leaflets are available from the Peace and Justice Centre or Scottish CND or to download from the ScrapTrident.org website.
  •  If you want help or advice contact the Scrap Trident Coalition via the Facebook event page here. Or via the webform here.

And please be sure to let the Scrap Trident coalition know about your plans.

For anyone who has ever opposed nuclear weapons this is a crucial moment to stand up and be counted as opposing Theresa May’s first piece of legislation – her mad plan to base nuclear weapons in Scotland for 50 more years against the express will of the people of Scotland.

Trident No More event photoWe need everyone working together, from local CND, SNP, Green, Scottish Labour, SSP, Yes Groups, Radical Independence, Women for Independence, faith communities and trade unions, not forgetting MPs, MSPs and Councillors to have a huge turnout across the country.

Please JOIN and SHARE the Facebook event widely to insure as many people as possible come out.

Trident No More Demonstrations Planned so far for the following locations Sat 16th July
Aberdeen – St Nicholas Square outside Marks and Spencers (starts 11am)
Ayr – Cafe Nero
Biggar – Corn Exchange
Bowmore, Islay – Outside Royal Bank
Clydebank – Chalmers St (starts 11am)
Cromarty – Cromarty Harbour
Dumbarton – Town Centre
Dumfries – The Fountain, High St
Dundee – Albert Square
East Kilbride – Bus Station
Edinburgh – The Mound, Princes St
– outside Quaker Meeting House
– Yes Hub, Liberton Dams
Glasgow – Donald Dewar Statue, Buchanan Street
Hamilton – Top Cross
Inverness – Market Brae steps
Kelty – Main St
Kilmarnock – The Cross
Largs – Main St
Linlithgow – The Vennel
Melrose – Market Square
Paisley – Paisley Cross
Peebles – High St (11am)
Penicuik – End of Precinct
Perth – March from North Inch 11am to Queen’s Barracks
Portree – War Memorial in Square
Stirling – King St
Ullapool – The Clock, Quay St (starts 11.45am)
Wick – outside Wetherspoons

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Peace & Global Justice Hustings Report

The Peace and Justice Centre and Campaign Against the Arms Trade organised a hustings in Central Edinburgh on Thursday 21 April, inviting questions on issues of war, peace and global justice. Speakers were RISE Lothians candidate Calum Martin, Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh Eastern Cospatric D’Inverno, Scottish Greens Lothians candidate Alys Mumford, Conservative candidate for Edinburgh Northern and Leith Iain McGill, and outgoing Edinburgh Central MSP and Communities Minister Marco Biagi.

HustingsThe event was chaired by University of Edinburgh lecturer Lesley Orr and was attended by more than forty citizens on a night when seven hustings or similar events were taking place in Central Edinburgh, a tribute to the level of active citizen engagement in the political process in Scotland today. List and constituency candidates spoke to questions ranging from nuclear disarmament and the arms trade to the refugee crisis.

In his opening remarks Marco Biagi asked how it is possible that in a wealthy country such as the UK people are lining up at food banks, singling out the waste of resources on Trident. He argued that SNP MPs have been defending the cause of international justice and that the SNP wants Scotland to join the international community but hat the UK must get its own house in order if it hopes to do so.

Iain McGill (Conservative) said that he has a background in international Aid and Development, having worked with refugees, in Kosovo. He pointed out that Conservatives established the principle of voting on issues of military intervention with the Parliamentary vote on Syria and stand with the Trade Unions on the West Coast that want to protect the jobs at Faslane.

RISE candidate Calum Martin said that RISE offers a unique choice this election standing for real change that can make a real difference. RISE activists have put constant pressure on issues like Scrapping Trident ending involvement in

Scottish Green candidate Alys Mumford explained that she was first involved in politics as a climate justice activist. Greens are for justice in all things. They want a bold Scotland to move toward greater equality. They want tax to address injustice and the rich to pay more, not for the burden to be on the poor. They believe it si possible for there to be work and homes for all, a ban on fracking and land reform.

Councillor Nick Gardner (Labour) explained that he is a Democratic Socialist, pro Trade Unions, anti nuclear weapons, though not a pacifist, a member of CAAT, he believes in the free movement of people, looking after the planet which is the overriding challenge of our times. Addressing the theme of peace and global justice in a hustings around elections to Scottish Parliament and the limitations of its powers under devolution, he argued that people expect politicians to speak on all issues as everything connects and that they want politicians to use the toos at their disposal to address such issues.

Cospatric d’Inverno (Lib Dem) said the Liberal Democrats want to do politics positively, not engage in a blame game as Labour and the SNP do, though that can be fun to watch. They want to raise £500million annually as a pupil premium for all  schools and reverse £500million in Labour cuts to Local Authorities. He has worked in public policy and travelled extensively.

There were a service of questions on nuclear weapons: whether they would sign a parliamentary appeal for a global ban on nuclear weapons and whether they would support Britain leaving NATO as it is nuclear armed, whether the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.

Calum Martin said nuclear weapons are a scourge and have to be scrapped both at home and abroad. We should not be in NATO, which as a war mongering imperialist alliance. RISE lead candidate Jean Urquhart had quit the SNP and joined RISE over this issue. Instead of funding Trident replacement RISE supports scrapping it and investing in 100,000 new climate jobs for Scotland. They support divestment of Scottish Parliament from nuclear weapons as well as arms and fossil fuels.

Copatiric d’Inverno maintained that we should stay in NATO as long as it exists, in order to have a seat at the table. If not we would lose our place on the Security Council. Lib Dems want a minimum credible nuclear deterrent and a world free of nuclear weapons. Their approach is to climb down the ladder. The “deterrent” costs a lot. But we should not divest from nuclear weapons

Nick Gardner would unequivocally sign any declaration on a ban on nuclear weapons. They do not make us safe and are the source of terrible toxic waste. We should instead address drones, cyber security and other issues and reform NATO to address modern challenges. Not renewing Trident is part of Labour policy in Scotland and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn will not push the button. Nick compared those who argue that we can’t abolish nuclear weapons because of jobs to those who argued we could not abolish slavery as it was a source of income. The Scotttish Parliament should divest from nuclear weapons and armaments. There is a question of fiduciary responsibility with regard to the pension scheme. Addressing this legally would  require primary legislation.

Alys Mumford reminded the audience that she had recently blockaded Faslane and would sign a call for a ban on nuclear weapons. We can do more, like support the Don’t Bank on the Bomb call for divestment from nuclear weapon, and provide training in the transition away from reliance on them, to re-skill people for jobs addressing climate issues. Greens plan for a transition from old outdated industries to sustainable industries that will address real threats such as climate change. As an MSP Green candidate John Finnie has campaigned for divestment of the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme from nuclear weapons. As a student Alys campaigned for Edinburgh University divestment.

Iain McGill maintained that there is no hypocrisy with Conservatives. They are committed to Trident. We would not be secure without nuclear weapons with countries like North Korea seeking them. He would definitely not divest but would continue Scottish Parliamentary investment in Rolls Royce and in the engines for Trident submarines

Marco Biagi said the SNP desire to be internationalist. They want the NATO Strategic Concept, which sets out NATO’s reliance on nuclear weapons for common security, to be changed. SNP draw a Red Line at the use of nuclear weapons. He personally was a member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament and SNP MSP Bill Kidd is its Vice President. Answering Iain McGill’s suggestion that he would be going into a comfortable academic job, Marco Biagi said the subject to of nuclear weapons is not acidic for him. His brother works at Faslane. But only a small portion of the jobs there are nuclear weapons related. He would want Scotland to maintain a small peacekeeping force. He was one of the first in Scotland to have published a paper in 2004 on divestment. He pointed out that in his commitment to ethical investment in his own personal financial affairs was shown by the recycled papers he’d made notes on – his Triodos Bank statements!

Candidates were asked if they would stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia which is conducting a bombing war in Yemen and causing a humanitarian catastrophe with thousands of civilian deaths.

Nick Gardner said we should have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. Alys Mumbord said we should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. In general Greens disagree firmly with the arms trade, even though she has family working in the arms industry. We need to challenge the presence of the arms  industries in schools, promotion of careers and we should go back and look at the impact of past arms sales and forgive the debt on sales to countries like Indonesia that used the arms to repress democracy movements and commit human rights abuses.

 

Iain McGill was pleased that the Conservatives secured the first Arms Trade Treaty.

Marco Biagi agreed that the Saudi deal should be torpedoed, but we must be careful that we do not end up stopping funding to systems for example for Irish fishing vessels. We must not promote arms sales to dictators and regimes that have used them for human rights abuses.

Calum Martin argued there are only so many things guns and missiles can be used for. Human lives must count for more than corporate greed. RISE is 100% committed to ending the Saudi arms deal.

Cos d’Inverno pointed out that the arms trade treaty covers many things such as telephone cables for Africa and flak jackets for doctors without Borders. This does not excuse the many times when arms are sold to countries that use them improperly.

Asked if they would insure that womens voices are heard on peace and justice issues and seek a Scottish plan for action on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 all of the candidates admitted not being familiar with that resolution. Anne Scott, a member of Scottish WILPF explained that1325 calls for women to be included at peace negotiations when hostilities cease in a given country.

Alys Mumford commented on the historic importance of women in peace movements, in particular the role of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom during the Second World War and she noted the SWILPF centenary exhibition that had taken place a the the Scottish Storytelling Centre earlier this year.

Iain McGill said he would support the resolution if it was a s simple as it sounds and noted the Conservatives’ record of women in leadership, citing Margaret Thatcher as well as Annabel Goldie and Ruth Davidson.

Nick Gardner commented that miners’ wives would have a strong view on Margaret Thatcher as a woman leader and called attention to Labour’s record of insuring that short lists for all Parliamentary candidates include women, stressing that they had stood by this position despite criticism over years. Women should certainly have a place in peace and nation building.

 

Lesley Orr commented that it was clear freom the lack of awareness of this important resolution that candidates all needed to do their homework. The resolution is of great importance as women and children are most effected by war.

In response to the question what efforts would your party make to address the unjust defiance of international law by Israel in its ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories Iain McGill said that he supported Israel’s right to defend itself. He was keen for its neighbours to recognise the benefits of trade and live in peace.

Marco Biagi said the SNP supported a viable Palestine with a return to pre 1967 borders. It was one thing to turn a blind eye on violations of international norms but another to actively facilitate that. SNP MSPs have been very active on this issue and an SNP Councillor had organised for a fire truck to be taken to the West Bank.

Calum Martin maintained the need for a two state solution because anything else would require one of the parties to give up its self determination, and Israel will never accept that. He criticized the rhetoric of describing Israel as an Apartheid State by those supporting Boycott Divestment and sanctions as inappropriate. Israel he said is not like that.

Nick Gardner said we need to recognise Israel’s role in the international arms trade. He quoted Desmond Tutu who in describing the situation of Palestine under Israel, said the people of South Africa had it easy in certain respects in comparison. The situation in Israeli society is deeply worrying as all citizens do time in National Service where they do beastly things to Palestinians and so the next generation will do the same.

Alys Mumford pointed out that she had been involved in the Occupation of Edinburgh University around the occupation of Gaza. There is no great illustration of the need to take the side of the oppressed. The Greens support BDS as a way to challenge power of Israeli state including cultural and academic boycotts. Replying to the suggestion that Greens or others were living in a fantasy she said the fantasy is the idea that Israel is not an apartheid state.

Responding to the question “Do you share my concern about military in volvemnet in schools?” Marco Biagi commented that this is an emotive topic. His brother is in the military. He does have concern about targeting particular schools. All career routes should be made available to all kids. The Army is effective at this. He respects the armed forces as employers but it is only one among a range of options. The bigger question should be around the morality of choices as to where the troops are being sent.

Calum Martin commented that the question reveals a sense of class conflict. Officer training takes place at private schools. If we made the likes of Blair and Cameron fight their own wars things would be different.

Cospatric d’Inverno agreed that it was not fair that officers are only recruited in certain schools. But the armed forces do a job for us. The issue is not about the armed forces themselves. Anger should be directed toward the politicians who tell them where to go not the armed forces themselves.

Nick Gardner said he supports the armed forces but is concerned about the mental health problems among those returning from conflict. Possibly we need restrictions on when people should be allowed to join the military. Individuals need to have developed emotionally and in their capacity for moral and ethical judgements before making the decision to risk their lives in the military, though he still believes voting should be allowed at age 16.

Alys Mumford maintained this is a class issue. Decisions to go to war should not be at the whim of politicians. We need to make sure there is adequate jobs training and apprenticeships and a fair welfare system so that people are not having to choose the military when there are no other opportunities. And other prospective employers need to have equal opportunities to visit schools.

Iain McGill said the example of his brother who was a piper in the Brigades and is now studying law shows the value of career opportunities in the military.

Asked if they would support a Scottish Defense Diversification Agency Calum Martin said this is a practical solution to a broad problem. Cospatric d’Inverno said there is no need for it in the defense sector and we should instead focus on this for the oil and gas industries because the oil industry will never recover.

Nick Gardner praised this as a genuine swords into Ploughshares initiative and highlighted Lesley Hinds as Provost who supported transition for Ferranti in the 1970’s.  Alys Mumford said there is a strong case for a shift away from investment in military industries. The Scottish Greens Manifesto provides for a Just Transition Fund that will insure that people are not put out of work and are retrained to fill the jobs that become available. Marco Biagi pointed out that it is now the work of Scottish Enterprise to look at the future of the Scottish shipyards to build civilian ferries in the future as has been done elsewhere.

And a final questions was asked on whether speakers would support calls for the UK to take in a greater share of refugees, and in particular would they back the Lord Dubs amendment to the Immigration Bill for the UK to take in 3.000 unaccompanied child refuges now in Europe. Nick Gardner said yes we should take more refugees. Alys Mumford said we should take more children. 10,000 families have offered to take in children. We need to do more than take them in. We need to offer education and training and challenge the reaction to the refugee crisis of Islamophobia.

Iain McGill commented that there are already thousands of children in Scotland awaiting fostering and not enough families to take them. He said we should find foster homes for these children first.

These notes prepared by Brian Larkin. Any inaccuracies are entirely his responsibility.

 

 

 

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First World War Resisters Celebrated in P&J Exhibition at Scottish Storytelling Centre

 

An exhibition of graphic posters telling stories of people and movements that opposed the First World War opens Thursday 25 February with a participatory, storytelling launch event at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Alice Wheeldon is a Prophet by Emily Johns

Alice Wheeldon is a Prophet by Emily Johns

The original, colourful posters in The World is My Country exhibtion echo some of the graphic styles of the First World War era and feature disobedient soldiers, feminist peace activists, a Maori princess, a famous Cambridge philosopher, and the striking graphic art of Emily Johns.

A co-editor of the national Peace News the highly political Johns’ previous exhibitions include Conscious Oil: myth and mind in the age of petroleum, Remember Saro-Wiwa, and Drawing Paradise on the ‘Axis of Evil’, a show dealing with Britain’s relationship with Iran. She is teaming up with writer and researcher, Gabriel Carlyle for a participatory and celebratory launch event that includes a short performance of original songs about conscientious objectors by the local choir Protest in Harmony.

TheWorldOrganised by the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, the exhibition coincides with the centenary of the Military Service Act which instituted conscription in the First World War. A dozen design sketches for a memorial to conscientious objectors by pupils from a St Thomas Aquins Secondary School History are included in the exhibition.  We hope the the Conscientious Objectors Memorial will be installed in Princes St Gardens, in Edinburgh by November 2018.  Find out more about the Memorial project here.

The World Is My Country Exhibition runs from Thurs 25 February through Saturday 12 March at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High St

The World Is My Country Exhibition Launch Event  Thursday 25 Feb 6 – 8pm. Includes wine and food. Free. All Welcome. 

The World is My Country exhibtion is travelling around the UK. This is the only opportunity to see the exhibition in Scotland. The posters that comprise the exhibition can be viewed on The World is My Country exhibtion website here.

The exhibition concludes with Songs of the Unsung Heroes, a singing workshop, celebrating the movements and people who opposed the First World War, led by Jane Lewis and Penny Stone from Protest in Harmony choir on Saturday 12 March from 2 – 4:30pm at the Storytelling Centre. Cost for the workshop is £12 / £10.

 

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Plowshares activist Sr Megan Rice Speaks to Packed House at New Peace & Justice Centre

On Friday 8 January US Plowshares activist Sister Megan Rice, spoke at the newly opened Peace & Justice Centre about being imprisoned for two years for a symbolic act of resistance at the facility where the US is making new nuclear weapons and where the explosive components of the Hiroshima bomb were produced as part of the Manhattan project.

Megan was 82 years of age at the time of the Transform Now Ploughshares action. She and Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli crept through Tennesee woodlands at 1am and cut and crawled through three chain link fences at the Y12 facility in Oak Ridge Tennessee to reach the “Highly Enriched Uranium Facility” where enough Uranium to make 1000 nuclear weapons is stored. They poured blood on the building to symbolize the potential slaughter of millions of innocent human beings that is being prepared there, and hammered on the corner of the building to symbolically begin the transformation of that place from death dealing to life giving and graffittied “Swords into Plowshares” and “Woe to Empire”. Their action was in the faith based Ploughshares tradition inspired by the vision of the Prophet Isaiah that “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and learn war no more.” A Ploughshare is the blade of a plough that cuts through the earth and turns a furrow for seeds to be planted. Thus it is a vision of transforming our world from reliance on weapons that have the potential to destroy the planet to a life affirming culture of peace.

Michael, Greg and Megan

Their action, know as the “Transform Now Plowshares”, caused what the New York Times described as “The biggest security breach in the history of the [USA’s] atomic complex” and shut down the nuclear weapons plant for two weeks. This was highly embarassing to the US government which, perhaps for this reason, pursued a spurious sabotage charge. They were convicted of sabotage but the sentence was overturned by an Appeals Court Judge who stated that the US government had no grounds for this conviction as there was clearly no attempt to act in any way that threatened the security of the United States. They were dramatically released in May.

Megan was joined by Plowshares activist Paul Magno. Paul is a staff member at Nonviolence International and has been involved with Witness Against Torture, taking part in prolonged fasts at the Supreme Court and the White House in response to the ongoing imprisonment and torture at Guantanamo. A core supporter of the Transform Now Plowshares trio Paul served two years in prison in the 1980’s for his part in the Pershing Plowshares action in which he and four others entered a factory in Florida where components for the Pershing missile system were being made. The Pershing missiles were at that time being brought into Germany. The purpose of these short range nuclear weapons was for use as “Tactical” weapons for fighting a nuclear war in Europe.

The New Peace and Justice Centre

The pair stressed that while their actions were inspired by their Catholic faith this kind of action is open to anyone who wants to resist nuclear weapons and the empire that relies on them for security. They said the symbolism of pouring human blood and symbolically beginning to disarm the nuclear weapons complex with hammers is very powerful. The action took only minutes and such actions can be done by anyone. It is important Paul said, not to see Megan as a superstar. Sister Megan described their action as following a simple model of marking the place where our society is preparing for crimes against humanity and thereby revealing the truth of the terrible injustice embodied there. They asked the gathering whether they considered this form of action to still be worthwhile after 35 years, and urged people to consider taking similar nonviolent, direct, and symbolic action.

Asked about her background Sister Megan told of her parents’ connection to the Catholic Worker community in New York city. Her earliest memories were of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin the founders of the Catholic Worker movement, a loose network of communities which seek to live the social gospel by providing hospitality to the homeless and witnessing against war and militarism, which they see as the root cause of poverty. Megan stressed the importance of community for sustaining resistance. The Catholic Worker and Jonah House community in Baltimore are examples. Megan hoped that people understood that by “catholic” they were not talking about the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church but meant catholic “with a small c”, that is a faith and action that is universal, that lives in solidarity with the poor and seeks to create a just and peaceful world. When a member of the audience pointed out the strong stand of the Scottish Catholic Bishops (and another mentioned the stand of the Church of Scotland against nuclear weapons Paul agreed that was as it should be but emphasized that more than words actions of resistance are called for.

Fr Bill “Bix” Bichsel

Megan spoke too of her forty years working with poor communities in Nigeria as a nun. After returning to the US and caring for her mother in her final illness she went to work with the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith based retreat and witness at the Nevada test site. She was eventually inspired to take this action by the five members of the Disarm Now Ploughshares, including Father Bill Bichsel (“Bix”) who spoke at the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre three years ago.

Asked about how she prepared for prison Megan shared that she had been imprisoned for shorter periods of time – twice for six months – after crossing the line at two of the mass demonstrations at the School of Americas where the US has for many years trained members of the military from a number of Latin American dictatorships, especially in the 1980’s and still today in methods of torture. With this action Megan never made it to an actual prison but was in a holding facility in New York city, in a single dormitory style room where 60 women are held together, in many ways worse than a prison.

Paul spoke of the influence of Phil Berrigan who spent more than 13 years in prison for repeated Plowshares actions. Phil and his brother Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, were members of the Plowshares Eight, the first group to take such action in 1980. The eight Catholics entered a factory in Pennsylvania and hammered on the nosecone of an MX Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. In a letter to Paul while in prison Phil advised that, for male resisters in the US prisons, how they fared in the face of possible personal violence depended on how they carried themselves non-violently.

For Megan, as for women peace activists in US prisons generally the situation was quite different. All of the women prisoners easily related to her resistance to injustice as they themselves experienced another side of the injustice of the US state directly. Some women were held in the interim facility for up to four years and never made it to prison where there are opportunities for education and work. Resistance to nuclear weapons in the US brings activists face to face with the injustice of the for profit Prison Industrial Complex and in these times especially with the disproportionate and unequal imprisonment of people of colour that has burgeoned with the war on Drugs.

Megan asked all of us to take a small action of solidarity and write to President Obama to urge him to give clemency to Michelle West a woman who was sentenced to two life sentences for inadvertently aiding a drug deal, which she denies. Cards with details of how to write to President Obama are available at the Peace and Justice Centre Or you can sign the petition to President Obama here. Thousands of women are imprisoned in similar cases in the US.

Megan read from a letter from General Douglas MacArthur who said that he was not consulted about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki  bombs. He wrote that Japan was ready to surrender at the time and he would not have approved their use had he been consulted.

In summing up Paul  urged us all to consider that everyone has faith of some kind. It maybe wanting a better world for your children. It may be the more universal idealism of caring about the future of our planet. But everyone is willing to give up at least part of their lives for that and urged us to consider doing so.

The talk was jointly organised by Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre and Trident Ploughshares and supported by Edinburgh CND. Sister Megan and Paul Magno went to Faslane the following day and joined a group of Glasgow Catholic Workers in praying for the disarmament of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Their tour of the UK and Europe continues.

Anyone wanting to explore the history of the Ploughshares movment more fully can borrow one of three books from the Peace and Justice Centre library, Crossing the Line and Doing Time for Peace by Rosalie Riegle and Swords into Plowshares by Art Laffin.

Anyone interested in getting involved in nonviolent resistance to the UK Trident nuclear weapons system can contact Brian at the Peace and Justice Centre or Jane Tallents at Trident Ploughshsares (TP) on tp2000[at]gn.apc.org. There will be NVDA (nonviolent direct action) trainings for TP in the spring of this year in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.

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Sister Megan Rice – Transform Now Ploughshares Activist to Speak at New Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

At the age of 82 Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun, along with two other Christian peace activists, caused “The biggest security breach in the history of the [USA’s] atomic complex” and shut down a nuclear weapons plant for two weeks.

Megan, Michael and Greg had cut through chain link fences and eluded security to reach the building in the Y12 Nucelar weapons complex where nuclear weapons grade Uranium is stored. There they had symbolically hammered on the wall of the building, poured blood and grafittied “Woe to Empire” and “Transform Now Ploughshares”. Their action exposed the massive insecurity of the nuclear weapons complex and was highly embarassing to the US government. The three were found guilty of sabotage but the verdict was later overturned on appeal and Megan and the others were dramatically released from prison after more than two years.

Sister Megan, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli called their action the “Transform Now Ploughshares” action. It was one in what is now a long and noble line of such actions of direct and symbolic disarmament of nuclear weapons that began with the action of the Ploughshares Eight. For these three Catholics it was an act of prayer and a dramatic witness inspired by the famous words of the Prophet Isaiah “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their swords into pruning hooks and study war no more.”

We have been following their remarkable story in Peace and Justice News since we first heard of their powerful witness three years ago. Now we will have the opportunity to hear Megan tell her story at our brand new location in the heart of Edinburgh just off the Royal Mile.

Come hear Megan tell her remarkable story at the new Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, 5 Upper Bow, Edinburgh EH1 2JN.

Organised by Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre
Supported by Edinburgh CND

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First World War’s Divergent Voices 1st November and 2nd November

Photo credit: www.gwpda.org/photos

Photo credit: www.gwpda.org/photos

This Saturday and Sunday 1st & 2nd November. 

Gerda Stevenson

Gerda Stevenson

2:30pm. National Library of Scotland

This Saturday and Sunday the Scottish International Storytelling Festival makes space for the voices of those who questioned and opposed the First World war in a live performance at the National Library of Scotland based on first hand testimonies of soldiers, nurses, home front workers, women peace campaigners and conscientious objectors.

 The Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre multimedia production, features award winning actor, director, poet and playwright Gerda Stevenson, Gaelic poet Aonghas Macneacail, and BBC Radio 4’s Crawford Logan.

Crawford Logan

Crawford Logan

The piece, scripted by Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre Coordinator Brian Larkin sets excerpts from letters, journals, memoirs and poems of those who questioned and opposed the war against a backdrop of patriotic propaganda. It includes selections from newspapers written by soldiers at the front and by conscientious objectors in prison.

Tickets £7.50. Book Tickets online here.

Featuring Gerda Stevenson, Aonghas Macneacail, Crawford Logan, and Jamie Reid Baxter, with music by Michel Byrne. If you missed the highly successful performance of Divergent Voices that took place at the Storytelling Centre in July don’t miss this. Script by Brian Larkin, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre.

Aonghas Macneacail

Aonghas Macneacail

This event is part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. It complements the exhibition ‘Behind the Lines: Personal stories of the First World War’ at the National Library of Scotland.

Tickets £7.50. Book Tickets online here or in person from the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Royal Mile, Edinburgh,
by phone on +44 (0)131 556 9579.

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Syrian Child Refugee Art Exhibition in Edinburgh 21 October – 12 November

Darkness to light 4 (1)An exhibition of 166 paintings and drawings by Syrian refugee children, organised by the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, will take place at City of Edinburgh Methodist Church and Edinburgh University Chaplaincy from Tuesday 21 October through Wednesday 12 November with a small selection also on view at St John’s Church.

The 166 paintings and drawings were created by Syrian refugee children during a three month psychological support project run by the Syrian humanitarian relief agency Najda Now at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.

Lebanon-kids-paintings-650_416 The exhibition is organised by the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre with the Children’s War Museum and Najda Now. It is supported by Church of Scotland, World Mission Council, Edinburgh City Centre Churches Together, and just Festival.

Brian Larkin, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre said: “Syrian children and teenagers have been forced to leave their homes, under showers of relentless bombardment; death and destruction has filled their country; raging infernos are destroying their schools and playgrounds. Violence, fear and murder have drawn these innocent souls in to darkness – the terrifying things they have seen causing deep psychological wounds.

2“Najda Now’s project, out of which come these poignant works of childrens art, aims to extend a loving hand to these children and plant the seeds of hope. Perhaps the psychological support programmes provided by the centre can help bring these children out of the darkness and in to the light; put smiles back to their sad faces, and wipe away the tears from their troubled eyes.

The exhibition will run from 21 October – 12 November at the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church, Nicolson Square and Edinburgh University Chaplaincy, 5 Bristo Square, with a small selection at St John’s Church, Princes St,, Monday – Friday, 10am – 3pm and at Edinburgh Methodist only Tuesdays 6 – 8pm & Sat 1 November 10am – 3pm.

For further information contact: Brian Larkin 07584492257

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