by Helen Steven
I do not wish to deny that on April 4th, the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, I was inside the Faslane Submarine Base, and that I was there as a deliberate act. However, I pled guilty to the charges because had I done otherwise I would have been guilty of far greater crimes against my conscience and against humanity.
If I may, I would like to outline very briefly the reasons for so acting, not so much as mitigation of guilt, but rather as a declaration of intent, for as long as those bases remain, I must continue to act as my conscience guides.
My charge is that I entered a protected area without authority or permission. My claim is that I had authority – the authority of my Christian conviction that a gospel of love cannot be defended by the threatened annihilation of millions of innocent people. It can never be morally right to use these ghastly weapons at any time, whether first, or as unthinkable retaliation after we ourselves are doomed.
I acted also with the authority of the nameless millions dying of starvation now because we choose to spend £11.5 billion on Trident whilst a child dies every 15 seconds.
I am further authorised by my 13-year-old Vietnamese god-daughter whose guardian I am. She was adopted and brought to Scotland to take her away from the unspeakable horror of the Vietnam war. If all that I have done is to bring her closer to the nuclear holocaust, I stand convicted by her of the most cynical inhumanity.
I am charged under an Act giving control and disposal of land to the Queen, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, the Commons assembled in Parliament and eventually the Secretary of State. I believe the world is God’s creation. This beautiful, delicate world in all its infinite wonder is threatened with extinction. That to me is blasphemy.
And so, out of love, love of my god-daughter, love of my world, I had to act. If I see that base at Faslane as morally wrong and against my deepest convictions – as wrong as the gas chambers of Auschwitz, as wrong as the deliberate starvation of children – then by keeping silent, I condone what goes on there.
On April 4th, I made a choice. I chose to create the dream of another way. My only crime is not working hard enough, or long enough, or soon enough towards the fulfillment of the dream. If my actions were a crime, then I am guilty.
Steven is an English Friend. She is a member of Iona Community, an ecumenical lay community strongly committed to peace and justice. https://iona.org.uk/
Ed. note: I and my wife Annie Patterson had the opportunity to have a wonderful visit with Helen and her wife in their home in County Fife in the summer of 2001. She and her wife had just participated in nonviolent civil disobedience that destroyed the computers guiding Cruise missles that were located in a loch in Scotland with several other women. The group presented a defense in their case that they were following a higher law in protecting millions of people from war. The magistrate in the case acquitted them of the charges of destroying military property. – Peter Blood