Arms trade fair in London draws flak from UK Christian groups

(Photo: Courtesy Christians Against the Arms Fair)Clergy protest against the London arms fair.

One of the planet's biggest arms trade fair mid-September in London will assemble more than 1,600 companies that develop, make, and sell war weaponry, but it has drawn flak from UK Catholic bishops, as well as other Christian and activist groups.

The organizers of the weapons sales exhibit, Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) say it is a biennial defence and security trade exhibition which serves as a forum between governments, national armed forces, industry, and academics, held at ExCeL London this year from Sept 14-17.

The fair comes days after the commemoration of 911, when people remember the terrorist attacks planned from Afghanistan onto targets in the northeast of the United States and the wars it unleashed in a huge area of the Middle East, including Iraq. 

"While Washington bickers about what, if anything, has been achieved after 20 years and nearly $5tn spent on 'forever wars,' there is one clear winner: the U.S. defense industry," The Guardian newspaper commented on Sept. 11 this year.

So, the Catholic Bishops of England, Wales and of Scotland, together with faith-based and Justice and Peace organizations, have voiced their opposition to the arms trade, echoing Pope Francis' appeal for an end to the lucrative but lethal commerce that fuels suffering and forced migration, Vatican News reports.

"We recognize the right of every country to defend itself against attack, but we must never ignore, or allow ourselves to become complicit in, the destruction of human life and violations of human dignity made possible by the sale of weaponry," said the Sept. 7 joint statement.

"The conflicts fueled by this trade harm the poorest communities, force people to flee their homes as refugees, and have devastating consequences for our environment," it said.


Around 30,000 delegates will attend the event, which will exhibit weapons from tanks to sniper rifles and provide the opportunity to discuss the possible sales of combat aircraft and warships.

The group opposing the gathering said such events like tone one will be held in London's Docklands are part of a trade that Pope Francis had claimed was "drenched in blood," UCA Catholic News reported.

The statement was signed by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, chair of the Department of International Affairs of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales; Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, Scotland, president of Justice and Peace Scotland and other senior clergy.

It was also signed by representatives of Catholic peace groups, Pax Christi England and Wales and Pax Christi Scotland; Catholic overseas development agencies CAFOD and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund; and by the leader of the National Justice and Peace Network.

National Justice and Peace Network said its September Bulletin leads with the current crisis in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of peace-keeping troops by the US.

"As the UK prepares to welcome refugees escaping persecution, [London} Mayor Sadiq Khan condemns the immorality of hosting an Arms Fair in the London Docklands this September," said the network.

"We stand alongside all those people of goodwill who are peacefully campaigning against the arms trade and join in prayer with the Holy Father that our leaders may commit themselves to ending it, in pursuit of peace and care for our whole human family," their statement says.

The group Christians Against the Arms Fair says on itss Facebook page: "The arms trade is a sinful business that fuels war, perpetuates poverty and undermines human rights."

The protests of Christian groups to the arms fair will not stop it but may make people think about whom they entrust to spend their taxes on war and how they spent that money and also if there is an alternative to massive arms budgets.

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