From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Episcopalians present for whistleblower Vanunu's release

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Wed, 28 Apr 2004 14:59:53 -0700

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Episcopalians present for whistleblower Vanunu's release

by Brian Grieves

ENS 042804-2

[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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