Grateful thanks to John Williams for this account of the recent Prayer Vigil, arranged for the Parish by the Justice & Peace group. For those of us who were not present, John has provided some of the materials he used for the segment of the vigil he led, on the subject of the arms trade.
Over the last year or so the Justice and Peace group of our Guildford Parish community, have held regular prayer vigils at St. Pius X church, to pray for peace.
Last Thursday (September 19th on the feast day of St. Matthew) we held our fourth vigil, it followed on from the 10.00am Mass and concluded at 1.30pm. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and three members of the J&P group each led an hour of reflection. People came and went as they wished, pausing to think and pray for resolutions to conflicts in our world.
On Thursday, the three reflections were on:
The following is an edited version of the first reflection.
I find it difficult to think of anything more obscene than the production for sale of weapons in so called developed countries for export to developing countries whose governments often have intolerable human rights records and whose peoples are live in poverty.
The United Kingdom is culpable in this market and is listed as the world’s second highest exporter in the Arms Trade.
About ten years ago I travelled to New York with a group of St. Peter’s Sixth Form students, staff and some St. Pius X parishioners, for a United Nations Student Conference on Human Rights. Touring the UN gardens, I was surprised to find a sculpture presented to the UN by the self-declared atheistic USSR in the 1950s depicting the words of the prophet Isaiah; ‘They will hammer their swords into ploughshares.’ Speaking over seven hundred years before Jesus, at a time when Jerusalem was under attack, Isaiah proclaimed his vision of peace:
Earlier this month, the DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) hosted the world’s largest arms fair in London ExCeL. In anticipation of this fair Pat Gaffney (General Secretary of the British Section of Pax Christi) wrote in The Universe (September 1st2017):
‘Surely it is time to stop arms trading
Most people have no idea that this biannual fair takes place in the heart of London. They are rightly shocked to discover that it is the world’s largest arms fair, hosting around 34,000 attendees from the USA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and more. The 1,600 exhibitors include all of the big names in weapons production, among them BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Rolls Royce. The Defence & Security Equipment International (DESI) has the blessing and co-sponsorship of the British Government. Harriet Baldwin, Minister for Defence Procurement calls the fair a ‘landmark event, a showcase, a stage for diplomacy, a platform for international engagement’. This makes it sound like a gathering of international aid workers!
Rather, it is a market place for weapons-producing companies to trumpet their ‘battle-field tested’ tanks, drones, guns and munitions, feeding the addictions of what Pope Francis calls a ‘never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry’.
We live in a time of insecurity, from the Korean Peninsula to the Middle East, Syria and Yemen brought about by political instability and the consequences of conflict and climate change. Surely, this is a time to disarm, to talk, to negotiate, rebuild trust to build-up what has been destroyed and protect our fragile ecosystems. However, a headline in the journal Defence News offers and reveals a different story: “A return to prosperity? Defence revenues climb for the first time in five years”
Earlier this year the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) took the British government to court. They argued that it was illegal to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia because of its leading role in the military coalition that caused havoc in Yemen. Sadly, the judgement was in favour of the government. CAAT however, are appealing the decision and this important moral and legal issue will be argued again. Pax Christi too has been engaging critically with Government about its arms trade and military links with Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen.
Whether or not the legal argument is won, there is a clear moral argument against trading in weapons. In the 1980s Cardinal Hume likened the arms trade to the drugs trade, taking to task those who said, “If we don’t supply them, someone else will.” No one should be in the business of trading arms. More recently, Pope Francis has used more powerful words to condemn the trade, “We plead for peace for this world dominated by arms-dealers, who profit from the blood of men and women.” Last month, responding to young people’s questions about the problems of the world, he spoke of the arms trade as a highly profitable ‘industry of death’ driven by greed.
The arms trade is not a benign trade. The ‘goods’ traded destroy, maim and fuel conflicts that cause the breakdown of communities and create deep grievance.’
For our consideration later next year, July 16th – 22nd 2018 is the Farnborough arms fair. It will be held even closer to us in Guildford and is known as the ’Farnborough International Airshow 2018’