At the Ministry of Defence (MoD) headquarters on London’s Whitehall, members of Pax Christi must be familiar figures, reports Jonathan Tulloch in The Tablet.
Demonstrations by the peace organisation often take place there, with campaigners kneeling in prayer. But they often deface the building too, are then arrested and prosecuted.
“When we appear in court,” says Pat Gaffney (pictured), the coordinator of the British section of the worldwide movement, “our defence is that we committed a small crime to stop a larger one.”
Last week, three of her members appeared in court and were found guilty of causing criminal damage after writing pacifist slogans on the MoD’s headquarters during a Pax Christi peace vigil. They have all said that they will refuse to pay their fines. As Gaffney knows herself from personal experience and serving time in Holloway, that means facing a prison sentence.
Jail sentences, peace protests, becoming expert on war and its weaponry: it suggests a person who is deadly serious, who might even be wretchedly careworn.
But earlier this year Gaffney – who has worked tirelessly for peace across four decades, been arrested 11 times, imprisoned on three occasions and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – appeared in The Independent’s “Happy List”, devoted to people whose life and work enriches others: capitalists of the human spirit.
Her warmth is immediately apparent as we meet for tea in the magnificent, highraftered, green-tiled tea room of the Leeds Art Gallery and Library. “So, how does it feel to be on the happy list?” I start. Gaffney laughs. “I didn’t believe them. When they rang to tell me, I thought it was a joke.”
Her commitment to the peace cause is undoubted. A former biology teacher, she has been British coordinator for the worldwide Catholic movement for 22 years. In that time, the organisation has successfully campaigned against major banks’ secret investments in cluster bomb manufacturers.”
FULL STORY All in the name of peace (Tablet)