Three Catholic bishops: Rt Rev Terence Brain, Bishop of Salford; Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood; and Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster have signed an ecumenical statement calling for the closure of the government arms sales unit, the Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO). They are among more than 30 leading church figures from the Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican and United Reform Church who have joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation's 'Stop Living by the Sword' campaign. 2006 marks the 40th anniversary of DESO, the agency responsible for encouraging and supporting UK companies to export arms and military equipment. DESO admits that it takes what it calls 'a pro-active rather than reactive approach' to the promotion of sales overseas. It is this 'push' of arms that the campaign wants to end. A confidential DESO report released this week under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that Iraq and Libya are no 'priority' markets for the DESO, as are Colombia and Kazakhstan, both criticised for human rights violation. FoR director Chris Cole said: "We and our partners, many f whom are working in great danger and difficulty, are extremely pleased that UK church leaders are backing the call to close DESO." Other Catholic signatories include: Jim Dobbin MP, Nobel Prize winner, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and author Fr Gerry Hughes SJ. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) together with Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and a number of other organisations are holding a DESO Day of Action on Monday 16th October which will include the encircling of the DESO offices in central London by a human chain as well as a Lobby of Parliament on the issue.
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