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Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Catholic bishops protest at arms dealing
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¬†A group of British religious leaders has written to a newspaper protesting at the UK's involvement in the international arms trade. The letter to the Times newspaper sent on behalf of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) urges the UK government to tighten its export regulations and end subsidies to arms sales companies. The signatories, which include the Catholic Bishops of Brentford and Portsmouth, also ask the Labour administration to "begin a process of conversion of hearts, minds and industry." A recent Foreign Office report revealed UK companies exported over £5bn of arms last year to 130 countries. Some of the military hardware, ranging from submarines to bomb components, is being sold to countries with poor human rights records and governments who use it against civilians. And the British Government have been accused of fuelling international conflict by supplying weapons to both sides of a dangerous nuclear stand-off. The report listed £13m of sales to Pakistan and £62.5m to India, but Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has denied this contributed to the level of tension between the two countries over the Kashmir region. The CAAT stated they would rather the UK stopped exporting arms completely, but said supplying countries like Eritrea, Turkey, South Africa and Israel was the greatest cause for concern. "British anti-personnel mines are killing people in refugee camps in Eritrea right now. They were traced to a company based in Bedfordshire, a spokesman said. He added the continued rise of small-arms exports was putting deadly weapons into the hands of ordinary people including children. The letter was published yesterday - on the first day of the week-long Farnborough Air Show. The show takes place every two years and is probably best known as a week of airborne displays, spectacular flypasts by the Red Arrows and public exhibitions devoted to all types of aircraft. But behind the scenes is one of the world's biggest arms fairs: according to Farnborough International, the air show generated $2bn (£1.6bn) of orders for the industry in 2000. The CAAT, which was founded in 1974 with the sole aim of ending the UK's involvement in the arms trade, is organising a peaceful demonstration and blockade of the show to raise awareness of the issues on 25 July. It has also arranged a rally with the international Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi which is taking place on 23 July in central London. The letter was signed by: Bishop Thomas MacMahon, Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood; Bishop Crispian Hollis, Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth; the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford; the Anglican Bishop of Coventry; David Coffey, General Secretary, Baptist Union; William Morrey representing the Methodist District of South Wales.
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