Six Christian groups back direct action against London arms fair
Six national Christian organisations have said that nonviolent direct action to disrupt the London arms fair would be a moral response to the evil of the arms trade. They spoke out three weeks before the beginning of the fair, which will take place at London’s Excel Centre from 10 – 13 September. The arms fair is known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi).
Christians will join with people of other religions and none in protesting at the Excel Centre and elsewhere. Churches are encouraged to mark Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer on the Sunday before the arms fair, 8 September.
The organisations include the anti-capitalist network Christianity Uncut, the Ekklesia thinktank, the Student Christian Movement (SCM) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (England). They are joined by the Christian Network of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which is the Christian wing of CND.
These six Christian groups back many lawful protests that are planned against the arms fair, but they also insist that direct action is a moral response to this sinful trade.
They believe that direct action should be nonviolent and carried out in a spirit of love for humanity rather than hatred for any of those involved. Christians taking direct action are encouraged to do so only after careful thought and prayer, and to be prepared to accept the consequences.
DSEi, which takes place every two years, is one of the world’s largest arms fairs. Representatives of governments around the globe, including some of the world’s most despotic and aggressive regimes, attend the fair at the invitation of UK ministers. Regular guests include the regimes of Bahrain, Colombia, Indonesia, Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is not yet known whether the new military regime in Egypt will be invited.
Many of the exhibitors at DSEi will gain financially from the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system and will be lobbying in favour of its replacement.
The arms fair is owned by Clarion Events and run with help from UK Trade and Investment, a wing of Vince Cable’s Department for Business. DSEi is subsidised with UK taxpayers’ money, despite the government’s austerity agenda. It will be guarded by British police.
Rev Keith Hebden, a Church of England priest who is awaiting trial for a protest against drones at RAF Waddington, said:
“Real, systemic and ethical change has always been sparked by prophetic witness, usually at some personal cost to the compassionate activist.”
Nicola Sleap, a disability rights campaigner and member of Christianity Uncut, said:
“The government is slashing support for disabled people, cutting public services and reducing benefits for people struggling to make ends meet. Despite the cuts, ministers are putting billions into military spending and subsidising an arms fair. I believe my Christian faith compels me to speak out against this injustice.”
A statement from Christian CND said:
“We hope the arms fair will lead Christians to consider the words of Henri Nouwen: ‘The thought that human beings are considering saving lives by killing millions of their fellow human beings is so preposterous that the words “saving life” have lost all of their meaning. One of the most tragic facts of our century is that this “No” to nuclear weapons has been spoken so seldom, so softly, and by so few.’”
People of many religions and none are planning to join a variety of protests at the London arms fair. There are more details on the websites of the Campaign Against Arms Trade and the Stop the Arms Fair coalition.
For more information from Christianity Uncut, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.