From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[ENS] Episcopalians present for whistleblower Vanunu's release
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed, 28 Apr 2004 14:59:53 -0700
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Episcopalians present for whistleblower Vanunu's release
by Brian Grieves
[ENS] Israeli nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu was released from
Shekma Prison in Ashkelon, Israel on April 21 after serving 18 years in
prison--nearly 12 of those years in solitary confinement. Among the
approximately 200 international and local supporters present for the
release were the Episcopal Church's retired Presiding Bishop Edmond L.
Browning, Patti Browning, their grandson Jacob, and about 20 other
Anglicans and Episcopalians.
Vanunu converted to Christianity after leaving Israel in the mid-1980's and
joined the Anglican Church in Australia.
"We welcome our brother and friend Mordechai and thank him for his
courageous witness as we celebrate his release," said Browning at a vigil
held outside the prison prior to the release. The supporters took up the
chant "Mordechai is free" as protesters demonstrated against him.
Vanunu was taken to St. George's Cathedral directly after his release,
where Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of the Diocese of Jerusalem received him.
Supporters were able to greet him there despite Israeli security
restrictions specifying that Vanunu not meet with foreigners nor leave the
country. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is appealing the
restrictions to the High Court of Israel.
Centerpiece of anti-nuclear advocacy
Vanunu worked as a technician at Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor site
before telling the world about Israel's nuclear weapons program through a
1986 article in the Sunday Times of London. From the information he
provided, experts were able to determine that Israel possessed between 100
and 200 nuclear weapons. Israel still does not acknowledge having a nuclear
After the story was published, Israeli agents kidnapped Vanunu in Italy and
took him back to Israel, where he was tried for treason and given an
18-year prison sentence. An international campaign worked for his release
and the Episcopal Church's 1997 General Convention called on then-President
Clinton to seek his immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship also made Vanunu's cause a centerpiece of
their advocacy against nuclear weapons. Patti Browning made his release a
priority of her own commitment to non-violence and delivered a paper at the
1996 International Conference on Vanunu in Tel Aviv.
Protest met with nonviolent response
In a speech to the supporters of Vanunu outside the prison, Bishop Browning
spoke of his visits to Hiroshima and his challenge to the diocese of Hawaii
in 1982 that "nuclear armaments are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus
Christ." He drew cheers from the crowd when he declared that "the world
needs to be rid of all weapons of mass destruction, beginning with my own
country, the United States."
The scene at the prison threatened to turn ugly as anti-Vanunu protesters
shouted "death to Vanunu" and hurled verbal abuse at his supporters. A
group of young Israelis heaved eggs at the Vanunu supporters. One egg
struck Mary Miller, retired executive of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, in
the back. "I needed to change before dinner anyway," Miller joked, but the
supporters, consistent with their nonviolent witness, refused to retaliate
or engage the protesters.
--The Rev. Brian Grieves is director of Peace and Justice Ministries for
the Episcopal Church.
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