Unitarian Peace Fellowship at General Assembly meetings, Nottingham, April 2013
The Peace Fellowship's first responsibility at every General Assembly meeting is to lead Peace Vespers, following the Opening Ceremony. This year, these were beautifully led by former Secretary of the Fellowship, Rev. Chris Goacher, and included some singing, accompanied by his auto-harp.
The next morning, Mrs. Christina Smith of Belper Unitarians proposed a motion for a Unitarian Peace Day on the third Sunday in October, which was seconded by UPF Secretary, Rev. Sue Woolley. It was passed by a firm majority. One of the items in it asked the Peace Fellowship to produce a Worship Pack to support this, and we will be working with the Facilitation Services Action Group of the Local Leadership Strategy Group to do this.
Our traditional 'slot' at the GA meetings was taken up by our Annual General Meeting, during which several exciting things happened. Our long-time Chair, Mrs. Joan Norton, had stood down several weeks ago, and the meeting was chaired by Mrs. Joyce Ashworth, who paid tribute to her predecessor, and agreed to be elected as Chair for one year only. Mrs. Carol Chilton also left the Committee for personal reasons. But we are pleased to announce two new Committee members: Mr. John Philip Carter, Lay Person In Charge at Lewisham Unitarians, Secretary of the London & District Provincial Assembly and a ministry student at Harris Manchester College Oxford; and Mrs. Christina Smith, one of the leaders of Belper Unitarians, and new District Administrator of the East Midlands Unitarians. We are delighted to welcome them both.
No slouch, within 24 hours of the meeting, John Carter had set up a Facebook page for the Fellowship, which, less than a week later, has nearly 50 'likes'. We believe that we need to use the social media to raise the profile of the Unitarian Peace Fellowship, so that we can more effectively witness for Peace.
New vision statement: Rev. Sue Woolley had circulated a draft vision statement to members, prior to the meeting. At the meeting itself, Mrs. Carol Chilton presented an amended version, which was passed by those present. It is now on the home page of our website.
Bruce Kent speaks on World Peace
On Saturday 30th April 2005, Bruce Kent, peace campaigner and vice-President of CND, came to Friar Gate Unitarian Chapel, at the invitation of the minister, Rev. Chris Goacher, and as part of his three-month tour to raise awareness of the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, which was due to begin in New York on 2nd May. Although this was the first theme of his address he included a second "Make Poverty History," demonstrating the relationship between the two issues. Representatives from Fellowship of Reconciliation, World Development Movement and CND were available beforehand to publicise local and national issues to which we might give support.
A CND Petition specifically demanded that: "All Nuclear weapons world-wide be taken, at once, off 'Alert' status and; All Nuclear states start now (as they are legally bound to do) to negotiate, sign and ratify an effective treaty abolishing all nuclear weapons. Bruce Kent pointed out that the first part of the original non-proliferation treaty of 1970, which is renewed every five years, had been more successful in preventing non-nuclear powers developing nuclear weapons than the second part of the treaty, which called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are still 25,000 weapons in the world and although non-nuclear powers push to clarify the treaty the eight nuclear nations still argue that they are necessary as a deterrent. He made three pertinent points;
1. A nuclear deterrent is of no use when fighting a war against those with no territory, i.e. terrorists.
2. There can be no deterrent against accidents.
3. Nuclear weapons do not make for a peaceful world.
A direct link to poverty was shown. Vast amounts of money spent on armaments could be spent on health and education. Whist we in the UK licence the sale of armaments within our own country and build political and economic structure which support peace, we are still the second biggest arms supplier in the world to countries where often people have no rights and no vote. Bruce finally stressed that we must not think war is inevitable, reminding us how war had seemed probable following the break down of apartheid in South Africa but due to the courage and influence of men like Archbishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela war had been averted.