For over ten years we have been standing for an hour every Friday evening in St Mark’s Place near Wimbledon Library (numbers fluctuating according to the weather but generally half a dozen of us) bearing witness to the possibility of a better world. A great deal has happened internationally since we got together with Merton UNA and Quakers from Wimbledon and Wandsworth to establish our ‘Vigil for Peace’ in the wake of 9/11 with the prospect of aggressive US retaliation to the destruction of the Twin Towers. Our placards carried the message “Break the Cycle of Violence”; and nothing that has happened in subsequent years makes me feel that the invasion of Afghanistan followed by the Iraq War has achieved anything other than death, misery and hatred.
It could all have been so different if our political leaders had had the imagination to think beyond their knee-jerk and outmoded assumptions that there is a military solution to the complex ills of the world. Violence breeds violence and ten years of warfare has left hundreds of soldiers and tens of thousands of civilians dead and maimed, an Iraq which seems to be sliding into civil war and an Afghanistan whose future is more uncertain than ever. The UK plans to introduce yet more weapons into the Middle East in an attempt to influence the outcome of Syria’s civil war, oblivious to the near certainty that such weaponry will not remain in the desired hands, any more than did the arms delivered to Libya which are now fuelling conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. And now Russia is planning to do the same on the other side.... Israel is attempting to keep itself safe by ever more flagrant injustice to the Palestinians, creating resentment throughout the Muslim world, and a cumulative sense of Western anti-Muslim aggression fuels the lunatic actions of paranoid individuals such as the Woolwich murderers.
The shining voice of sanity in the Woolwich tragedy was the woman who got off the bus to help the injured soldier and stayed to talk to his murderers in a calm and unthreatening way, in the knowledge that this was the only way to avert further violence. Most of us would not have had her self-possession and bravery, but there is an important lesson here which I hope will be long remembered.
We were extraordinarily lucky with the weather; the plant stall was able to spill outside which gave us the luxury of extra space in the rather cramped hall. We had brought in some picnic tables and there was a lovely atmosphere as old friends were reunited over lunch. Delicious refreshments were served by cooks Brigitte and Aden and their assistants, and Maisie supplied the tablecloths and little vases of flowers that made so much difference.
Business was brisk and we made a clear profit of nearly £1,000 after deducting our very heavy expenses (over £400 including hall hire of £245). It is not possible to give details for every individual stall because our super-efficient Treasurer, Julie, was on holiday (she promises she won’t do it again) and in her absence the accounting system broke down, but we know that plants (£606), bric-à-brac (£305) and cakes/home produce (£183) did particularly well. We are looking again at expenses and in particular whether £72 on a newspaper advert is justified, but in the absence of the Community Centre there is no such thing as a cheap hall in Central Wimbledon.
We know also that the Fête of the Earth is not all about money. The goodwill is priceless. We were approached by several regular customers anxious to find out if the Fête was continuing this year after the closure of the Community Centre. The greengrocer in St Mark’s Place allowed us to use his stand to hang our banner and the CND stall collected signatures and handed out literature all day. We had a wonderful team of helpers, including those who worked so hard in advance to get everything streamlined, allowing the major transport operation to proceed with maximum efficiency. Thank you to all plant-labellers, book-sorters, float-counters and bric-à-brac-scrubbers (Janet deserves a special mention for cleaning up several huge ceramic pots which later sold for several pounds each).
On the day, a willing team loaded and unloaded the goods, put up tables and organised the displays. Banners were hung in the street, and posters attached to railings all down the Broadway. Flyers were distributed to passers-by. (Manning the stalls in the hall is the easy bit!) We need to thank Mick once again for his invaluable lorry, and Bob for driving the van. It was a tremendous team effort and enables us to continue campaigning for another year.
Congratulations to WDC/CND member and Merton UNA Branch Secretary Alison Williams who was chosen to receive a Pax Christi Peace Prize at their AGM on May 5th: a large medal made by the Neve Shalom Arab/Jewish community in Israel. The citation stated “Alison has worked for peace, quietly day in day out over many years without proper recognition. She has been with Pax Christi at least 40 years and she is most passionate about support of the United Nations.
“Her father joined the UN Secretariat when it was taking shape in London in 1945 and Alison feels she grew up with the UN. She promotes the potential of that organisation to achieve its aims of peace, justice, good governance and sustainable development.... She works closely with the Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND. 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. She contributes to the Movement for the Abolition for War, works with the Network for Peace and no doubt with many other organisations. The Pax Christi award is to be seen as a long overdue tribute.”
Alison Williams receiving her award from Jose Henriquez, International Secretary of Pax Christi
Merton UNA has arranged an update on the successful Millennium Villages Project, well on its way to achieving all the Millennium Development Goals in 14 clusters of villages in ten African countries by 2015. A brief introduction will be followed by a DVD with a case study of one of these villages, Mwandama in Malawi, questions and discussion: 7·30pm on Tuesday 11th June at 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road SW19.
RSVP as the venue is small: 020 8944 0574
Friday 28th June is the deadline for volunteers to take part in CND’s Peace Education programmes for those who are “passionate about empowering young people with knowledge and interested in facilitating thought-provoking activities and discussions about peace and nuclear issues”. Comprehensive training and ongoing support is offered, so recruitment is not restricted to qualified teachers. Volunteers will deliver “interactive assembly talks and workshops” in schools based in London, the South East, Essex and East Anglia, covering a wide range of age groups (9–18 years).
“We do not campaign in schools: we support independent thinking and encourage debate, enabling young people to form their own opinions,” says CND Peace Education Officer Lisa Bounds, who wrote about her experiences in a Wimbledon high school for our May Newsletter. “Passion and enthusiasm are all that is needed.” For more information see http://www.cnduk.org/education or the WDC/CND Facebook page.
AWE plc, which operates the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, pleaded guilty at Reading Crown Court on 16th May to “failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees” — and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £80,258 legal costs and £2,500 compensation to an employee injured during a fire in an explosives handling facility in August 2010. Passing sentence, the judge said that the failings which led to the fire “give rise to serious concern”.
[More information from Nuclear Information Service website: http://nuclearinfo.org/article/awe-aldermaston/nuclear-weapons-factory-operators-plead-guilty-breaking-safety-law-following]
The announcement that £50 million public money has been earmarked for commemorating the First World War (stressing “our national spirit”) has prompted a determination that next year’s 1914 anniversary should instead be used to promote peace and international cooperation. A letter was published in the Guardian [http://bit.ly/14v450h] launching a campaign to underline the horror, devastation and the waste of war, a campaign which is supported by Jude Law, Michael Morpurgo, Carol Ann Duffy, Anthony Gormley, Vanessa Redgrave, Simon Callow, Brian Eno, Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone and many other prominent individuals.
Stop the War is asking all their supporters to co-sign this letter to help ensure the highest possible profile to the campaign (go to http://ww1.stopwar.org.uk). And on Thursday June 6th there will be a meeting at 2·30pm in Friends House, Euston, to discuss the ‘Peace Movement Alternative’ to official plans.
The Preparatory Committee (PrepComm) meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference took place recently in Geneva, almost totally ignored by the media. Statements from the meeting:
Egypt walked out of the committee in protest against “the flagrant non-fulfilment of agreed commitment” from the 2010 NPT Conference, i.e. the failure to convene a conference on a NWFZ in the Middle East [see November Newsletter].
At a fringe meeting in Geneva former Defence Minister, Lib Dem M.P. Nick Harvey, described Trident as a “fantastically expensive insurance policy” that “no longer makes sense.... Our defence and security policy needs to move with the times rather than continue to drift along from its Cold War configuration.” [Information from the West Midlands Mailing of May 2013]
Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the three stricken reactors are still partially active, as demonstrated by the continued detection of xenon135 in the vicinity despite its half-life of only 5 days. Attempts to send in a remote camera to inspect conditions inside Unit 2 were frustrated when the only up-to-date blueprints of the area turned out to be located inside the reactor building itself and too contaminated to access; further attempts to find a clear route proceed at random. Fish in the local harbour and as far as 200km to the south were found to be heavily contaminated, while on-site storage tanks for the radioactive water from the reactor basements (still increasing at 400 tons per day) are now nearly full. Since Tepco have no way to filter out the strontium or the tritium content, their proposed solution is simply to dilute the water further in order to reduce it below the legal limit before discharging it into the ocean. A recent leak from the system was pronounced safe since it has merely soaked into the gravel bed locally instead of entering the Pacific — at least, not until it rains!
The newly-elected government in Japan is pushing ahead with the nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Rokkasho, currently 15 years behind schedule, despite the discovery of an active geological fault under the site which could produce a magnitude-8 earthquake: 3,000 tons of waste are already stored there. “It is strange that a country with so much respect for its ancestors can show so little respect for its descendants, or future generations, by leaving thousands of tons of lethal waste that they must guard for thousands of years, so that this generation can line its corridors with vending machines, or run air-conditioning instead of dressing cooler and less formally, or light up the sky with advertising,” writes the Japanese Against Nuclear campaign: http://januk.org