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Saturday, December 10, 2016
Pat Gaffney: blessed are the peacemakers
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¬†As leaders of Christian communities in the UK, we cannot help but listen to the increasing cry from around the world of those caught up in conflict. Traditionally, the main victims of warfare and armed conflict have been soldiers and other armed combatants. Today the situation has changed. Around 90 per cent of casualties in modern wars are innocent civilians - about 50 per cent of those, children. Shockingly, about 2,000 children are killed or injured in armed conflict every single day. Whilst many of the conflicts take place far away from us here in Britain, we are not distanced from taking responsibility. We are one of the foremost producers and suppliers of armaments in the world, exporting about £5 billion of military equipment annually. As Christians we are called to be peacemakers. Yet as a nation we are sowing the seeds of war around the world by exporting hundreds of millions of pounds of armaments. The proliferation of weapons around the globe does not bring security - in fact just the reverse. The lesson of the last century is that wars cause further wars, fuel deep hatred and rarely solve problems of injustice or abuse of rights. Scripture tells us that real security does not come from weaponry but from justice. "Integrity will bring peace, justice gives everlasting security" says Isaiah (32:17) To be a nation that is known for providing real security in the world, to be a nation that truly defends the poor and needy, we need to do all that we can to bring justice and peace to the world. Christian communities around the world remind us that fundamentally we are all sisters and brothers, children of one God. They urge us to do what we can to stop the flooding of their countries with weapons and to end the exploitation of political differences and conflicts to make financial profit. We believe that these please from our brothers and sisters around the world amount to a call to conversion. We believe that it is time to have a fundamental review of our role in the world with regard to our arms dealing. Whilst it is true that the current government has recently introduced legislation to close certain loopholes and has somewhat improved the transparency of weapons dealing, the actual amount of arms that are exported continues to rise - from $5.5billion in 1992, to $7.7billion in 1995 to $8.9billion in 1998. We have greater expectations of those who govern us .In addition the majority of arms export licences are granted for exports to Middle east and developing countries. As Pope John Paul II has said, the "inherent violence" of the "scandalous arms trade... spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood." In recent years our Churches have made clear statements on the evils of the arms trade, offering other visions of peace and security . We are at the beginning of the World Council of Churches decade to overcome violence and the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. We believe that this is an opportune moment to begin a process of conversion , which will lead us to action and change. In particular we call on the government to: * End its support for arms exports * Introduce a tough export licencing system - including controls on licensed production overseas. * Help defence companies reorientate from military to civil production. We call on dioceses, parishes, groups and all individuals of good will to join our call to conversion and action in a spirit of love, justice and peace. Pat Gaffney heads Pax Christi UK. This article was first published in Catholic Woman - Winter 2001/2
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