Church leaders urge government to close arms export unit

By staff writers
October 3, 2006

Thirty UK Church leaders have signed a statement calling for the closure of the government arms sales unit, the Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO).

Two Presidents, fourteen Bishops and a Nobel Prize winner are among the leading church figures from the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic and United Reformed Church who have joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation's 'Stop Living by the Sword' Campaign.

2006 marks the fortieth anniversary of DESO, the agency which is responsible for encouraging and supporting UK companies to export arms and military equipment.

DESO admits that it takes what it calls 'a pro-active rather than reactive approach' to the promotion of UK arms and military equipment overseas and it is this push of arms that the campaign seeks to end.

A confidential DESO report, released last week under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that Iraq and Libya are now 'priority' markets for DESO’s arms push, as are Colombia and Kazakhstan, both criticised for human rights violations.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) together with Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and a number of other organisations are holding a DESO Day of Action on Monday 16th October which will include the encircling of the DESO offices in central London by a human chain as well as a Lobby of Parliament on the issue.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation launched the campaign to end DESO's arms push in response to calls from grassroots peacemakers around the globe with whom FoR works.

Chris Cole, Director of FoR said: "One specific area that our partners, continually worry about is the availability of weapons in their countries. They argue that the continued push of arms from countries like the UK, undermines their vital work of building peace, community and security. We, and our partners, many of whom are working in great danger and difficulty, are extremely pleased that UK Church leaders are backing the call to close DESO."

The full text of the statement by church leaders:

"The Defence Export Services Organisation is the unit of the UK Ministry of Defence which helps UK companies sell their military equipment and services overseas. Through DESO, the UK taxpayer subsidises the export of arms into areas of conflict and to governments that abuse human rights. The trade in military equipment also damages economic development at each of global, regional and local economic levels. The undersigned call on the UK government to close the Defence Export Services Organisation and not to transfer its functions elsewhere in the public sector or to allocate public funds to enable them to be undertaken in the private sector."

Church leaders signing the call include:

Revd. Graham Carter, President of Methodist Conference
Revd. Kate Coleman, President of Baptist Union of Great Britain

Anglican Bishops:

The Rt Rev James Bell, Bishop of Knaresborough
The Right Revd Colin Bennetts, Bishop of Coventry
The Rt Revd Michael Bourke, Bishop of Wolverhampton
The Rt Revd Richard Inwood, Bishop of Bedford
The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme
The Rt Rev Christopher Morgan, Bishop of Colchester
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract
The Rt Revd David Rossdale, Bishop of Grimsby
The Rt Revd Dr John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of Shrewsbury
The Rt Rev John Went, Bishop of Tewkesbury

Catholic Bishops:

Rt Rev Terence Brain, Bishop of Salford
Rt Rev. Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood
Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster

Others Church figures:

Andy Reed MP
David Taylor MP
Jim Dobbin MP
Andrew Stunell MP
Nobel Prize Winner, Mairead Corrigan Maguire

Keywords:deso | arms exports
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