Friday, 11 September 2015

No Faith in War

It's been a while, so I guess it must be high time for another blog post! Especially as I certainly have no shortage of things I would like to write about ... so many that actually fitting in the time to write about them is proving something of a struggle! After a very full summer and a slightly hectic return to the new year (because everyone knows "new year" is in September, right?!) I probably have enough material to bore you all in many posts in the weeks to come.

To begin though, I want to write something about Tuesday, when I, along with may others, gathered at the gates of the ExCeL centre in London where preparations are going ahead for one of the world's biggest arms fairs. Part of a sustained week of creative action to impede the setup of the event, Tuesday was entitled "No Faith in War" and was an invitation to people of faith to stand against the evils of the arms trade. Gathering from about 9am, we maintained a presence of both prayer and protest at the gates all day, with people coming and going throughout.

Peacefully, prayerfully, many of those present stepped out into the roads, preventing access to the entrances to the centre where preparations for next week's exhibition are underway. Multiple blockades throughout the day, including one point where entrances at both ends of the centre were closed. Informal prayers and songs sat in front of a growing tailback 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.

This was not a passive vigil of witness but a creative, active response to one of the great evils of our time; but the atmosphere throughout remained one of respectful peace as well as of passion deeply rooted in gospel values. I remained conscious through the day of the stark contrast between this and the preparations behind closed doors for an event which will contribute to the continuing escalation of instability and conflict; the human cost of which is increasingly evident.

DSEi takes place once every two years and brings thousands of arms manufacturers and dealers together with representatives of global governments and military, including those from some of the world's most repressive regimes. Even if actual money doesn't change hands, we are facilitating relationships between some very dodgy characters. As the refugee crisis in Europe draws our attention to increasing global conflict and human misery, there is an almost sickening irony in knowing many of these conflicts are fuelled by a trade which is being encouraged here in our capital.

For me, the theme of the beatitudes reverberated through the day. We heard them several times with different groups independently choosing its inclusion in their liturgies.
The power of Jesus' words, spoken as they were 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 me, us, to experience the truth of His blessing, that the peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst for justice will know happiness.

I came away uplifted and inspired. This for me, is where and how the church should be. Thank you, to all who were church with and for me that day.

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