Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Department for International Affairs at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has issued the following statement this morning on the DSEI Arms Fair.
In June 2017 Pope Francis explained that it is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace while promoting or allowing the arms trade.(Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network: intentions for June 2017)
Likewise, it is a contradiction for our government to speak of promoting human rights while inviting authoritarian regimes to the UK for one of the world's largest arms fairs.
As a nation, we claim to support refugees and oppose persecution, while simultaneously selling weapons to those responsible for killing innocent civilians and driving families from their homes.
The government has a moral duty to observe and strengthen its arms control regulations and international obligations, rather than arming the same regimes that it vocally criticises for human rights abuses.
(The Department for International Trade has invited eight countries to attend DSEI 2019 which were explicitly identified as Human Rights Priority Countries by the FCO in its most recent Human Rights and Democracy Report.
Archbishop Kevin McDonald stated at the recent meeting of faith leaders with the US Secretary of State and former Foreign Secretary, hosted by Archbishop Justin Welby: "A concern for religious freedom should not be seen in isolation. It needs to inform policy across government, particularly on Aid and the sale of arms to other countries.")
I offer my prayers and best wishes to all those from our Catholic community who are taking up the Holy Father's message and peacefully campaigning against the indiscriminate sale of arms.
On Tuesday, two Anglican bishops - Bishop Roger Morris of Colchester and Bishop Peter Hill of Barking, led a prayer service, organised by the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, on the access road leading to the DSEI Arms Fair.
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