The Royal Navy's bizarre #nukes4jesus thanksgiving service was met with the disgust it deserves, reports Thomas Gibbs
I certainly won’t have been the only person who assumed that the unveiling of Westminster Abbey’s service of thanksgiving for British nuclear weapons was a joke. Yet there we were, as the Royal Navy celebrated 50 years of continuous deployment of the UK’s submarine-based nuclear ‘deterrent’.
Whilst giving thanks for the past half-century of patrols by submarines armed with the force of more than 1,000 Hiroshimas, this anniversary also presents the opportunity to look to the future of the project - a future being guaranteed at the cost of £205 billion.
With the NHS being subjected to crippling cuts and incremental privatisation, with 1 in 200 people homeless, with 400 blocks of housing still clad as Grenfell was, the prospect of spending hundreds of billions of pounds on weapons that must never, ever be used is simply repugnant.
This sentiment was made very clear by the hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Abbey as part of a demonstration organised by CND and supported by Stop the War, Quakers, Pax Christi, and CAAT.
The demonstration featured a number of speeches, including from Stop the War Coalition's Lindsey German, songs and prayers, and a poignant ‘die-in’ which attracted considerable attention from passers-by. Following the service, the congregation (graced with the presence of the Duke of Cambridge) were treated to rounds of booing on their police-protected saunter to the event’s reception.
George, one of the many Christians out to voice their disgust, said
I am horrified that thanks is being given for nuclear weaponry in the name of God. The Church of England General Synod passed a motion condemning nuclear armament in 2018, and this service is an abuse of Westminster Abbey’s status. Christ’s gospels teach radical peace, yet this service is celebrating Britain’s potential to wreak such appalling destruction and suffering. Nukes are - and I can’t believe I’m having to say this - evil, and not Christian. Where is Justin Welby?
Having grown up between Greenham Common and the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, the idea of an everyday life not haunted by nuclear weapons is somewhat foreign to me. But only 9 of nearly 200 countries in the world boast nuclear weapons, and with signs of escalation from Modi’s India (supported by Israel, the only nuclear-armed state not to declare its arsenal), now more than ever is the time for the UK to set an example and lead the way in a movement of global nuclear disarmament.
Thomas Gibbs is a London-based composer/performer, writer, and political activist from Newbury, Berkshire.
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