Tag Archives: arms fair

No Faith in War

Over coming days, as those involved process the experience, I’m sure there will be more to be said about Tuesday’s “No Faith in War” day of action outside the DSEi arms fair. There will be photos certainly, and maybe some video footage too. But some first thoughts from me:

On Tuesday 8th September, Christians gathered outside the ExCeL centre in London as it prepares to host one of the world’s largest arms fairs. Travelling from across the country and representing diverse denominations and groups, we maintained a presence at the gates throughout the day.

Peacefully, prayerfully, many stepped out into the roads, successfully preventing access to the entrances to the centre where preparations for next week’s exhibition are underway. Multiple blockades through the day were part of a whole week of creative action to disrupt the set-up of the DSEi Arms Fair. Informal prayers sat in front of a growing tail-back of lorries and a funeral procession for the unnumbered victims of the arms trade were among the powerful moments which took place in the approach roads to the ExCeL gates.

Supported by those maintaining prayerful vigil on the surrounding verges and pavements, the atmosphere remained one of respectful peace and of passion steeped in gospel values: a stark contrast to preparations for an event which will contribute to the continuing escalation of instability and conflict; the human cost of which is becoming increasingly evident.

DSEi takes place every two years and brings thousands of arms manufacturers and dealers together with representatives of global governments including those from some of the world’s most repressive regimes. As the refugee crisis in Europe draws our attention to increasing global conflict and instability, there is an almost sickening irony in knowing many of those conflicts are fuelled by a trade which being encouraged here, in our capital.

The theme of the Beatitudes reverberated through the day, with different groups independently choosing their inclusion in their liturgies. The power of Jesus’ words, spoken to an audience living under a military occupation, resonated through acts of repentance and resistance, in the face of a system which continues to perpetuate violence and oppression.

The sense of joy and community, which pervaded the day, even in the seemingly impenetrable face of death and destruction, allowed us to experience the truth of the blessing, that the peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst for justice will know happiness.

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5 Broken Cameras

I recently attended a showing of the film “5 broken cameras” (http://www.kinolorber.com/5brokencameras/) organised by the Milton Keynes Palestine Solidarity Campaign (http://www.palestinecampaign.org/) (Congratulations to them for hosting such a great and well attended event.)

The film is made by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat and documents the building of the Israeli settlements near to his village, Bil’in.  We see the separation wall being built and the brutal sight of ancient olive trees being lifted out of the ground by bulldozers, and later being torched by the settlers.   This latter act was particularly shocking as if illegally stealing the land wasn’t enough, they also had to destroy the villagers’ livelihoods.   Of course the film is made by one side of this conflict and I am struggling understand the settlers’ perspective.

One of the themes it explores is the challenges faced by non-violent activists.   Early on in the film we see peaceful protestors being physically beaten by Israeli soldiers simply for protesting.   Later in the film the soldiers seem to regularly use live ammunition on protestors armed simply with flags and banners;  some protestors are killed.   There’s a horrible scene where a handcuffed protestor is shot in the leg at point blank range.

I was recently involved with 6 other Christians in direct action in the UK against DSEi, the world’s largest arms fair hosted in London.   Although it was frustrating that the police’s priority was to ensure the event passed off without any problems and thus protestors were not tolerated, actually the police were polite, patient and professional throughout.   I cannot imagine protesting when my health and life might be in danger, and some of the footage of conversations with the protestors family demonstrated it was not an easy decision for them either. 

And of course their protests do not succeed in being totally non-violent.   Teenage boys seem to be particularly vulnerable.   They see their fathers injured at the protests and the lack of progress on the legal front, and they resort to throwing stones at the soldiers when they come into the village.   But they are punished heavily for this, arrested in midnight raids.

Another chapter in the world’s catalogue of non-violent direct activism is being written.

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There is another way

Last week the biggest arms fair in the world came to London and we felt obligated to be there to say that the way of weapons is a dead end. There is another way, a way of peace, that Jesus teaches.  The arms fair has a history of breaking what minimal rules there are and it turns out this year was no different. Illegal torture  equipment was found in the exhibition. Some us took part in a non violent blockade of one of the entrances, to say that we cannot stand by while this illegal and immoral trade continues. There are some photos here and over the coming weeks we ill keep posting reflections as the trial for “aggravated trespass” gets under way.

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