FAITHS UNITE TO GROUND THE DRONES
ANTI-DRONES CAMPAIGN CONTINUES TO GATHER MOMENTUM
On Friday 11th October, 2013, representatives from different faith groups, universities and colleges undertook a peaceful interfaith vigil and protest action at the UAV (Engines) Ltd plant in Shenstone, Staffordshire, which manufactures engines for unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for military use, including the provocatively-named “Reaper” attack drone. This event was co-sponsored by Pax Christi and Friends of Sabeel.
An assembly of thirty-one protestors gathered outside the plant and successfully delivered a programme of peaceful protest action including acts of worship and witness prepared by students from The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Edgbaston.
Student organiser Andy McCosh, currently training as an Ordinand at Queen’s, commented: “This action is one of many which took place across the UK during national drones’ action week, clearly demonstrating that concerns over the horrific and appalling consequences of the military uses of drones are not going to go away.”
The protest took place during a week when another former Queen’s Foundation student, Keith Hebden, stood trial for his part in an act of protest earlier this year against drones deployed from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Keith, who is now an Ordained Church of England Minister in Mansfield, was fined £10, plus a £15 surcharge and £75 costs, for his part in cutting through a boundary fence at the airfield and helping to plant a peace garden inside the wire, and even then was encouraged by the judge who heard his case to consider proceeding with an appeal.
Professor John Hull of Queen’s paid tribute to the willingness of students to engage in this programme. “The energy and commitment shown by our college students, past and present, is impressive; it is also hugely influential in encouraging others to step forward and participate – we are receiving ever-increasing levels of support from other educational and religious institutions including, on this latest occasion, chaplaincy and student representatives from the University of Warwick.”
“It’s also amazing how significant actions of this kind can prove in terms of impact. At RAF Waddington, the base was temporarily closed down and military operations suspended as a result of the challenge posed by two priests, a teacher, a blind woman and a grandmother! Whilst, at Shenstone, we regularly experience closedown of the plant when advance notice is provided of our visits, although on this latest occasion there was ongoing activity at the complex and we were able to focus our protest accordingly.”
The Foundation has pledged to continue its programme of prophetic witness and social justice activities at the Shenstone plant and elsewhere.
For further comment:
Andy McCosh: 07970 548302
Professor John Hull: 07794 022662
Queen's Foundation website: www.queens.ac.uk
Inter-faith protestors gather outside the Shenstone UAV Engine factory in Staffordshire on 11th October 2013 in opposition to the military uses of drones. Photographs by Lee Harper.