Church of Scotland anti-Trident campaigners celebrate Nobel Peace Prize
Protesters being arrested by police at Faslane naval base.
When the Nobel Peace Prize is presented to the International Campaign Against Nuclear weapons on December 10, it will be a moment of quiet pride for thousands of anti-nuclear campaigners. Among them will be church members Molly Harvey and Judith McDonald, who have been active in the anti-nuclear movement for decades.
A member of Gorbals Parish Church in Glasgow, Molly first marched against nuclear weapons in the 1960s when she was in her 20s.
“I think it’s wonderful that ICAN is getting the Peace Prize and hopefully it will make a difference,” she says. “Some people might rethink and begin to say maybe we shouldn’t have nuclear weapons.”
Her activism started when she realised the amount of money that was being spent on nuclear weapons.
“I really felt very strongly that it was an obscene amount of money we were spending on nuclear weapons, said to be the equivalent of spending £30,000 a day since the birth of Christ, ” she says. “I couldn’t go along with that. I felt I would letting down my children and grandchildren if I didn’t protest it.
“At the same time, I was working with families living in poverty in Glasgow and I felt I would be letting them down if I didn’t protest.
“Trident is capable of destroying most of the Northern Hemisphere in 10 minutes. Thirty million men, women and children would be wiped out in 10 minutes and the effect of radiation would make much of the earth uninhabitable.”
Over the years Molly was arrested several times and charged with breach of the peace.
“I was taken to court and convicted of breach of the peace, and when I went to court in Glasgow I refused to pay the fine,” she says. “So I was sent to Cornton Vale for 7 days, but I got out after the weekend for good behaviour.
“Throughout the whole time I was very aware I was part of a bigger movement. So the first time I was arrested I was let out at midnight and there was someone waiting for me to take me home. That to me was such a powerful thing. Everyone was doing a piece of the work—whether it was bringing a hot drink to the person lying in the road waiting to be arrested or the person driving me home—we were all in it together.
I will never forget that when I was being carried away to be arrested I was surrounded by other protesters and they were singing to each one of us by name ‘Molly Harvey, stand oh stand firm, stand oh stand firm, and see what the Lord can do.
“The whole thing was a very powerful experience. It was very special.”
Judith McDonald, who attends Cromarty Parish Church was a young doctor in the 1980s when she first became aware of the devastating effects of nuclear weapons.
“Like a lot of people in the Peace movement, when the cold war came to an end we thought nuclear weapons would go,” Judith says. “In fact we still have over 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and it only takes one to cause a catastrophe.
“Nuclear war doesn’t know anything about national boundaries. The debris thrown up into the atmosphere by the blast, heat and the radiation generated cannot be contained.
“If there were even a limited nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, for example, as well as the millions killed instantly, the resulting climate effects would lead to a nuclear famine with up to 2 billion people in the world starving.
“So I am just delighted that ICAN will be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of all the work it has done to bring about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which the UN General Assembly adopted on the 7th of July this year.
“I’m thrilled and I hope it will raise awareness that we still have nuclear weapons and that we have to work globally to get rid of them.”
Molly Harvey and Tricia McConologue.
Judith says the arguments for keeping Trident as a deterrent are weak.
“Deterrence works on fear and I think we have to go beyond fear because I don’t believe we can contemplate using them. We must not use them because of the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences they would have. So I think deterrence is an outdated theory.
“Keeping Trident is also tremendously expensive and at a time of austerity and food banks there are far better ways to spend our money. Renewing the Trident weapons system will cost £31 billion in the first instance and more than £200 billion over the next 30 years.
“I hope this award will raise awareness, change minds and help us get rid of these weapons of mass destruction for good.”
This weekend campaign groups across the country will be holding parties to celebrate the award. Yet, they say, the work is not done so long as the UK maintains nuclear weapons.
Five churches, including the Church of Scotland are inviting people to submit their names and images online to a picture petition that will be delivered to the UK government in February. (http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/nuclearbansigned/ )
The letter asks the government “to urgently develop and publish a transition plan so that the UK is ready to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the first opportunity.”
It states that “the continued threat of use of nuclear weapons by a few governments is contrary to the genuine peace that Christians and others seek to build.”
Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, urged church members to join the call saying:
“The treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons represents the first step in a possible future free from Nuclear Weapons. The indiscriminate nature of Nuclear Weapons and the disproportionate scale of suffering that they are capable of unleashing make them unjustifiable. We are encouraging everyone to take part in this picture petition to show their support for a world free from nuclear weapons.”