Detailed Biography

BRUCE KENT - PEACE WORK FOR OVER 50 YEARS

Biographical Information

Chaplain to Pax Christi UK (1958)  Helped to promote annual youth meetings "Routes" in Europe each summer involving hundreds of young people (1959 onwards).  In 1966 opened the first Pax Christi summer hostel in London to welcome young visitors to Britain and to promote international exchange and dialogue.

Joined Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1960)

Launched a major correspondence in The Times (1967) about the morality of nuclear deterrence which produced much debate especially within the Churches.

Founded the Nigeria-Biafra Committee (1967) with the aim of ending arms supplies to both sides in a civil war.  Flew to Biafra by night (1969) on a Joint Church Aid relief plane for a fact-finding mission.

Member of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace (1971).

Active in protesting about use of torture in Brazil.

Worked for Conscientious Objectors in Spain and Portugal (early 1970s).  Set up COAT - Conscientious Objectors' Advisory Team to promote recognition of the rights of conscientious objectors in all countries.

Helped to set up the Justice for Rhodesia Campaign; the campaign against arms sales to South Africa;  and Christian Concern for Southern Africa.

Involved with several initiatives in connection with Northern Ireland including a London (Camden)-Belfast scheme to raise funds for reconciliation projects and to educate the British public by bringing speakers over from different communities in Northern Ireland.  Catholic and Methodist clergy were sent on a fact-finding tour of Northern Ireland and then travelled round England reporting on the situation there.

Served during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war as director of an emergency refugee hospital in Calcutta sponsored by the British relief charity War on Want.

Became chairperson of War on Want (1973) at the time when it launched the first Baby Foods campaign to highlight the health risks of commercial powdered milk promoted in Third World countries.

1974 became full time chaplain with Pax Christi's British section.  Instrumental in setting up with other peace organisations the highly effective Campaign Against the Arms Trade which is still doing outstanding work today.  Has persistently encouraged the development agencies to educate the public about links between arms trade and world poverty.

Also served on executive of International Pax Christi for 10 years and was international Vice-President in the 1970s.

Through Pax Christi he promoted Pope Paul VI's annual Peace Sunday in the churches from its inception in 1968.  Met Homer Jack and attended the Nairobi Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.  Subsequently established the British branch of WCRP.

Initiated in 1975 the Prisoners' Project which united organisations working for amnesty for prisoners of conscience and organisations working to improve conditions for other prisoners.  This led to a Prisoners' Sunday in the church calendar and a prisoners' week which is still an annual event.  From 1975-1995 he served as a Trustee of the Prisoner of Conscience Fund in Britain.

Invited by the Quaker Christian Fellowship Trust to visit Southern Africa in 1977, meeting community leaders and giving talks about the theory and practice nonviolence.  Subsequently promoted investment pressure from churches on British companies with the aim of achieving economic justice for workers in South Africa.

Worked in an inner-city London parish 1977-80, making his church a place of welcome for people of many nations.  Chilean political refugees conducted a fast in the church to draw attention to the situation in their country.  Started the One World Shop next door to the church as an education centre where people could find literature from justice and peace organisations as well as Traidcraft products.

In 1980 he became General Secretary of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  He took a leading part as spokesperson on radio and tv for disarmament and peace throughout the Cold War years of the 1980s.  At the time of his leadership the Campaign grew from 2,000 to 100,000 national members and from about 30 active local groups to nearly 1000.  As part of this work he visited the USSR, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the US and many other countries.  In 1982 he organised a large party to lobby in New York the UN Second Special Session on Disarmament.

In 1988 he undertook a peace walk of 1000 miles from Warsaw to Brussels (NATO) calling for a united peaceful nuclear-free Europe.  Actively involved throughout the 1980s in the European Nuclear Disarmament Campaign.

From 1985-1992 he succeeded the late Sean MacBride as President of the International Peace Bureau.  Membership consistently increased and the campaign to declare nuclear weapons (possession and use) illegal was promoted.  An active supporter of the World Court Project which has been so successful in getting the issue of nuclear illegality to the International Court in the Hague.

In the 1990s he served on the Executive of the United Nations Association and in that connection he established with others, a national forum called "Action for UN Renewal" to promote some of the ideas of the Global Governance Commission.  He also completed a major programme of visits to about 150 secondary schools, speaking on international issues of peace and development.

In 1999 he was British co-ordinator for the Hague Appeal for Peace, a 10,000-strong international conference in The Hague, which initiated a number of major campaigns (e.g. against small arms, the use of child soldiers, and to promote peace education).  In Delhi, in 2000, he addressed the first national meeting of the Indian anti-nuclear coalition.

One of Bruce Kent’s most recent initiatives is the Movement for the Abolition of War, inspired in the UK by the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace conference.  The aim of MAW is to convince people that wars are not inevitable.  Everyone, pacifist and non-pacifist alike, can take the steps necessary to make the nonviolent settlement of international disputes the norm and not the exception.

Two other human rights issues have particularly occupied Bruce Kent.  He became involved in the campaign for economic justice for pensioners and is a frequent speaker at pensioners’ meetings.  More recently the human rights of prisoners who maintain their innocence, and of people detained without trial under control orders in Britain have been the focus of much work.

His work for global disarmament continues.  In coming months Bruce Kent will be speaking in towns and cities all over the United Kingdom to raise interest in the cause of nuclear abolition at the forthcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN in 2010.

 


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