Would I have been a Shell protester?
By our co-chaplain, Andrew Norman
In my daily reading from ‘Quaker Faith & Practice’ I stop when I come to: “Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes.” For this immediately makes me think of the support I felt for six Extinction Rebellion protesters having heard about the outcome to their trial. Last year they were arrested after spraying graffiti and smashing windows at Shell’s London headquarters. In their trial they appealed to their commitment to protect life on this Earth and to stop the death and injury that is and will be happening with climate change. The jury heard how the six XR protesters felt that knowing this and doing nothing would have been a much bigger crime. The judge directed the jury that this was no defence in law. But they acquitted them anyway. I too felt a strong support and gratitude for them – but at the same time I felt uncomfortable knowing that I would not myself be prepared to sacrifice my own freedom, security and comfort by breaking the law like they did. I know I would never do that.
In the garden I work hard under a deep-blue Devon sky to clear some ground before planting a few tender cabbage seedlings. I’m not an expert gardener, but I trust that at least some of my seedlings will grow and eventually offer something for the table. Likewise in matters of the Spirit our personal fertility is inhibited and shaped by various factors.
Then in the Anglican daily office the same day I read about the Melanesian Brothers who were martyred in 2003, about how ‘sacrifice’ is at the heart of our Christian calling, that sacrifice is always essential to love. Yet martyr means witness and we are called to witness in our own ways. And as ‘Quaker Faith & Practice’ asks me in my very next reading: “Do you uphold those who are acting under concern, even if their way is not yours?” I hope so.
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