World "sleepwalking" towards nuclear terrorism

Five Christian peace activists have been arrested following a protest at the Pine Gap US spy base near Alice Springs, days after the Vatican called on the United Nations to wake up to the dangers of nuclear terrorism.

According to a Catholic Online report, the Vatican's warning was delivered in an address to the UN General Assembly committee on disarmament issues by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, head of the Holy See's permanent observer delegation to the UN, who said that the world has come to crossroads concerning nuclear weapons.

"One path can take us to a world in which the proliferation of nuclear weapons is restricted and reversed through trust, dialogue and negotiated agreement. The other path leads to a world in which rapidly growing numbers of states feel obliged to arm themselves with nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear terrorism grows," he said.

"The international community seems almost to be sleepwalking down the latter path, not by conscious choice but rather through miscalculation, sterile debate and the paralysis of multilateral mechanisms for confidence-building and conflict resolution," the Archbishop said.

The Archbishop called upon "governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them, agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament".

The Archbishop stressed that dialogue and multilateral negotiations must replace the policy of nuclear deterrence.

However, "a stirring in human consciousness is taking place that would suggest that war does not work," Archbishop Migliore added.

The statement was delivered as the trial of four anti-war activists continues this week in Alice Springs with a solidarity protest by the group Christians Against All Terrorism at the Pine Gap US spy facility resulting in five arrests.

Tracey Makamae (43), from Yeppoon in Central Queensland, Sam Lard (22) from New Zealand, Edward Cranswick (56) from Adelaide, Jamie Ford (28) from Alice Springs, and Carl Johnston (22) also from Alice Springs were arrested when they refused to end a one and half hour blockade of the road leading up to the facility.

The arrests came at the end of an afternoon of colourful protest activities by about 60 local and interstate activists which coincides with the first stage of the trial of four Christian peace activists who broke into Pine Gap last year and now face seven years in prison.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that spokeswoman Donna Mulhearn (pictured), who travelled to Iraq as a human shield, said the protesters erected a three metre wooden cross, pinned with the names of Iraqi war victims, outside the facility's gates.

In a statement, she said people had travelled from across Australia and from New Zealand to protest and lend their support to the court case, which began with preliminary hearings last week.

"In a way it (the protest) was a solidarity action ... in another way this is about people drawing attention to what Pine Gap does," she said.

"We're up for seven years in prison (for breaking into the facility) and we're very happy to face those charges. Our goal is not to stay out of prison, our goal is to draw attention to the role that Pine Gap has in the world, it's devastating.

"Our view is that Pine Gap could be transformed ... into a facility where this very sophisticated technology and satellite systems could actually be used in a manner that is not violent ... that could be far more beneficial to the world."

Tracey Makamae said she took the action because she is tired of being lied to.

"The US and Australian Governments are lying to us and we've swallowed it and ignored the issue of Pine Gap for too long," she said.

"How can intelligent Australians plead ignorance any longer?"

According to a statement, the four currently on trial aims to "draw public attention to the war-making role of Pine Gap - both conventional war-making in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nuclear war-making with the 'missile defence shield' and the current threats of nuclear attack against Iran."

The protests in Alice Springs and the Vatican statement have come at a time when North Korea announced that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and that it would conduct weapons test.

World almost sleepwalking down nuclear weapons path, Vatican nuncio warns U.N. (Catholic Online, 5/10/06)
Christian protesters arrested at Pine Gap
Five arrests at Pine Gap demonstration

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations
Pine Gap 6

Trial continues for Christian activists in Pine Gap case (CathNews, 5/10/06)
$A60 billion new UK missiles "absurd": Scottish Cardinal (CathNews, 21/9/06)
Christian protesters hampered by "secrecy" (CathNews, 20/4/06)

9 Oct 2006