Thursday, 21 September 2017


Last week governments, military officials and private companies from around the world (including from some of the world's most repressive regimes) were, by the invitation of our government, in London buying and selling weapons. 

This is, in my humble opinion, absolutely not OK.

The week before, hundreds of others were, not by explicit invitation of our government, in London trying to creatively and non-violently disrupt and witness against this hideous undertaking, the DSEi arms fair.

This is, in my humble opinion, absolutely more than just 'OK'.

I spent two days outside the ExCeL centre, adding my voice to those who wanted to stand up and be counted, to witness and to take action against this very visible manifestation of the evils of the arms trade. It was deeply encouraging that both the number of people and the variety of creative actions had definitely multiplied since the previous arms fair; making the whole week much more effective both in its capacity to disrupt the set-up of the arms fair, and in its ability to attract broader media attention and raise awareness of the evils of profiting from war and insecurity.

I am generally a fairly law-abiding citizen. At school I'd have been horrified of doing something that might get me in to trouble with the authorities (although my parents will attest that didn't necessarily extend to my home-life!) Even as a teacher, I was often (irrationally) slightly apprehensive if I was summoned to the head teacher's office. And yet two weeks ago I was honoured to be able to support people whose consciences told them they must put themselves at risk of arrest to obey the spirit of a higher law. 

That higher law is one which speaks of justice and peace and fullness of life. It is in direct contradiction to a system in which economic growth is dependent on the continuation or escalation of aggression and war, and in which death and destruction are being sold for profit. I deeply believe that the God who calls us to strive towards life in all its fullness, weeps in the face of bombs and border fences. I deeply believe the same God was there in the joined hands, the standing, the sitting, the lying down, the abseiling off bridges; in the prayers, the dancing, the laughter, the art, the songs and the silence, outside the arms fair earlier this month. 

The road outside the ExCeL centre was a very good place to be. It was a good place to be reminded that, when it is not confined by the rules of institutions and the walls of its buildings, the church is very definitely alive. It is diverse and it is united. It bubbles with energy and passion. It speaks a gospel which has something to offer to a world which needs it. It isn't always the case, but on the streets outside the ExCeL centre I was pleased to count myself as a member of it.

The DSEi Arms Fair takes place once every two years. If we haven't already stopped the arms trade by then (*ever the optimist), I warmly invite you to join me there in September 2019.

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