Nottingham Peace Vigil

In the Market Square any recent Sunday you may have seen a circle of people standing quietly near the lions and fountains. Cards were handed out to people curious to know what it was all about. They read:

STAND FOR PEACE - We stand here in silence for half an hour, 12.30 till 1.00 on Sundays, to show we think war against Iraq is wrong. In other towns people are standing with us. If there are enough of us it could work. Do join us, till 1pm or for a few minutes, and bring, a friend next Sunday.

And it's working! The last time or two we have had some forty people all saying by their presence that we are opposed to war. And we have been joined by members of the Catholic community in Nottingham, as well as Methodists, some Anglicans and members of CND. This is to invite you to consider if you might come and stand there too, as a visible witness that not all of us in Britain agree with the current political call to arms.

This initiative grew out of a meeting of the local Quaker Peace Group, held soon after the events of 11th September 2001. Members of the group then wrote to their MPs on specific issues related to peace, and a Peace Supper was held which was planned as a multi-faith event. Catholics and Quakers met again on September 6th this year, when it was decided to mount a Peace Witness. They chose to give a positive and constructive message: for peace, rather than a negative one: no war. Even if war is decided on, after it has run its course there will still be a need for peace initiatives and peace-making.

So how does the Vigil work in practice? We walk down to the Market Square and light a few candles in glass jars set up our notices and form a circle. I love the instinctive way we all gradually move outwards as numbers grow, taking care to leave spaces in the circle for newcomers to join us. Supporters have included men, women and young people, any of whom may take a turn at holding up the standard. We have been joined by various nationalities, old soldiers and teenagers, couples with pushchairs and the family dog. The only heckling to date was by some youngsters who treated it all as a stunt.

We take our witness more seriously, and we realise that no one group can - or should - have full responsibility for the peace vigil. One difficulty we foresee is that every church may have other Sunday events organised on occasion, and as a result our support for peace might seem to waver. So we invite you at your church or community group to form part of this peace initiative, and decide whether you too would like to support the Nottingham people standing for peace each week in the Market Square.

Cynthia Howell, a Nottingham Quaker
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 7th November 2002