By: Ellen Teague, Jo Siedlecka
Pat Gaffney, general secretary of Pax Christi quoted the words of Pope Francis during prayers for peace outside the Excel Centre in east London on Tuesday - where the DSEI Arms Fair is due to open next Tuesday:
"It is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time, promote or permit the arms trade.
Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade and so that the merchants of death get rich?
Let us put an end to this situation. Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimises so many innocent people."
There were also prayers and testimonies from several faith leaders - among them an Anglican pastor, who called on everyone present to pray for the police who work so hard to keep our country safe. A Muslim speaker from Bahrain lamented the fact that the vast amounts of money being spent on weapons could be so much better used in medical research and care for the sick. Buddhists present were a reminder of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In line with the ‘No Faith in War’ theme, the afternoon saw prayer services led by the Quakers, Taize community and Pax Christi with around 100 people participating. The backdrop was peace banners: ‘Bristol Peace’, ‘Brummers for Peace’, Pax Christi, Christian CND, CND and Campaign Against Arms Trade.
The Quakers led a series of refrains, including “Choose life not death” and “We will love even our enemies”. Those who made money out of arms trading were warning not to be “barn-building fools”, a reference to the warnings of Luke 12:18. The Taize-led liturgy included their most popular sung refrains such as ‘Ubi Caritas’ and prayers for victims of war. There was a prayer for those displaced by severe weather and the hope that governments would seriously address one of the causes - Climate Change. All this carried on during heavy rain showers.
The final liturgy of the day was led by Pat Gaffney, the General Secretary of Pax Christi. Pax Chirsti members were there in force, including Bruce Kent, Valerie Flessati and Patricia and Michael Pulham of Christian CND. Fr Joe Ryan represented Westminster Justice and Peace, and Fr Aodh O’Halpin and Ellen Teague the Columban missionaries. Sr Margaret Healy, a Sister of St Louis was amongst the religious sisters. Arms trading companies were named and asked to repent – BAE Systems (the world’s third largest arms producer, whose weapons and equipment are deployed across the world, including in Iraq and Yemen), Lockheed Martin and Rolls Royce amongst them.
* A Silent Vigil to say No to the Arms Fair will take place on Monday 11 September from 6.30 - 8pm. Meet in Tidal Basin Road Road outside Royal Victoria DLR at 6.30pm. Vigil between 7-8pm. Open to all. Bring candles/jars - it can be very windy there!
Watch Pat Gaffney's short reading here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGQBx0-zRj0