Pax Christi UK
The White Cross
The white cross is a suitable symbol to convey the beliefs and way of working that we have adopted in the British section of Pax Christi.
First of all the cross represents a do-it-yourself approach even in the way it is made. It is very simple: two pieces of wood, painted white, are screwed together so that they can easily be folded up to make an unobtrusive stick, or unfolded into the cross shape extremely quickly. These crosses are light, practical and convenient to carry - even on a crowded train on the London Underground. They travel well. They are made for action out of doors, literally taking Pax Christi’s message to people in the streets.
The white crosses have seen plenty of action in the past 30 years. They have been with us to Faslane, the nuclear submarine base in Scotland; to Porton Down, the chemical and biological research laboratory on Salisbury Plain; to Greenham Common and the Ministry of Defence. We have stood with them outside embassies, cathedrals, military bases, and walked with them on interfaith peace pilgrimages
These white crosses are not symbols of private devotion, beautifully painted for gazing at like icons. No, the white cross is a very public statement, painted plain white so that it stands out in the crowd; deliberately photogenic to attract the press and television cameras.
The presence of the cross speaks on many levels. First of all it tells our friends in the rest of the peace movement that we are there with them. Pax Christi’s task is often to provide a bridge between the Church and the peace movement, interpreting one to the other. Our sister peace organisations have come to respect and value the contribution of the Christian groups. At times when emotions are strong our liturgical tradition has brought dignity and drama to demonstrations which might otherwise have turned ugly and even violent. The sight of the white crosses among the usual red and black banners at these events can be controversial in a country where the Churches are a comfortable part of the establishment.
It challenges the easy labelling of all political activists into stereotypes: angry, young, anarchist, violent, Communist, drop-outs, agitators, extremists. Many people prefer to see the Churches quietly in their allotted place, blessing the status quo, and sticking to issues of private morality and piety. By using traditional religious symbols and ceremonies we hope to speak directly to the hearts and minds of our fellow Christians. We hope that seeing familiar objects in an unexpected place will provoke questions and interest in the peace issues we raise. To our fellow Christians, to people of other faiths and to secular Britain the visible message is that the cross is right there at the centre of the struggle for peace, human rights and justice. The presence of the cross is a sign of solidarity with those suffering.
It is also an affirmation of our belief in a different way of living; a reminder that we all have a choice to make. Sometimes the crosses are decorated with flowers or pictures to represent all that is life-enhancing in a place whose purpose is destruction: “Choose life, that you and your children may live.” And holding up these crosses, small, insignificant, and even ridiculous compared to the size of the plant, machinery and missiles they oppose, is a sign of hope in another force, a belief that, against the odds, the power of non-violence will finally triumph in the struggle between good and evil.
The Ash Cross
Actions by Christian peacemakers during Lent, at military sites, establishments and government buildings, contribute to the naming and uncovering of those things which perpetuate violence and injustice. Making the sign of the cross or writing the word “Repent”, with blessed ash and charcoal on a building may seem rather extreme. However, this kind of witness can create a space for Christians to express their full humanity, fears, anger, faith, hope - at a place where work to deny and destroy life is in progress. They are saying, for themselves and the Christian community who join them, “what happens here is not the way of God.”
Ash Wednesday Litany
Leader: Trident is the countersign to the cross. It arrogantly threatens to undo the work that the cross has done. By Trident, all things will be destroyed.
Response: By the cross, all things will be reconciled.
L:The sign of the nuclear age is Trident.
R:The sign of Christ is the cross.
L:In Trident, violence is victorious.
R:In the cross, violence is defeated.
L:In Trident, evil has dominion.
R:In the cross, evil has been overcome.
L:In Trident, death reigns supreme
R:In the cross, death has been swallowed up. In this nuclear age, let our sign be the sign of the cross.
Jesus dies on the cross
Jesus is dying,
hanging on that cross,
upheld not by the cruel nails
but by his own great love
for all humanity.
He is brother to all who suffer,
friend to every victim.
He is one with the tortured, with the lonely,
with refugees and all who are afraid.
Anthea Dove : The Way of the Cross
(Pax Christi/CAFOD, 1997)