Christians mark 9/11 anniversary with prayers against the arms trade

By staff writers
September 11, 2011

Christians in the UK and elsewhere are marking the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre with a Day of Prayer against the arms trade.

With one of the world's largest arms fairs due to take place in London next week, they suggest that there is more need than ever to recognise the evils of violence and the futility of relying on it.

Churches across the UK are expected to include prayers about the arms trade in their services, along with prayers and reflections on other themes relevant to the atrocities of 9/11, including terrorism, war and the causes of violence.

The London arms fair, known formally as Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi), will take place in London's Excel Centre from 13-16 September. It is owned by Clarion Events and run with political and financial support from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit of Vince Cable's Department for Business.

The Day of Prayer has been called by the Christian Network of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), who have produced a pack of worship resources.

The Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer is an annual event, but this is the first time it has taken place on the eve of the London arms fair. It is also the first time it has taken place since the unexpected death of Alun Morinan, the Baptist peace activist who had co-ordinated the CAAT Christian Network for five years.

UK ministers have been accused of hypocrisy for welcoming democracy in Egypt and Libya while inviting delegations from oppressive regimes to attend the arms fair. DSEi takes place every two years but is even more controversial this time, following the Arab Spring and the use of UK-made weapons in the suppression of peaceful protests in Bahrain and elsewhere.

For the first time, four major Christian denominations in the UK have formally criticised the arms fair. The Baptist Union, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church issued a joint statement last week insisting that, “There can be no future security if we place our trust in more sophisticated weapons”.

The three churches pointed out, “Our government aspires to support democratic reform in the Middle East, but at the same time taxpayers’ money is being used to support the London arms fair, hosting 1,300 weapons companies from around the world”.

Meanwhile, British Quakers have said that they are “united and passionate” in opposing the arms fair.

Around a quarter of the organisations in the Stop the Arms Fair coalition are Christian groups. They include the Fellowship of Reconciliation, London Catholic Worker, Pax Christi, the Speak Network and the Student Christian Movement (SCM).

In addition to today's Day of Prayer, a number of Christians are expected to join a multifaith vigil outside the Excel Centre tomorrow (Monday) evening, to mark the eve of the arms fair. They will then join people of other religions and of none in a range of protests on Tuesday, both at the arms fair and in central London.

The protests will include lawful demonstrations, direct action, street theatre and a mass lobby of MPs.

Some protests will have a particularly Christian flavour. The Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Speak network are planning to demonstrate outside the offices of General Atomics, a US-based company that produces the drones used by the UK government in Afghanistan, which have been blamed for a number of civilian deaths.

It is also likely that groups of Christians will engage in nonviolent direct action. The Christian thinktank Ekklesia suggested this weekend that such action would be an “entirely justified” response to the arms fair.

“David Cameron and his colleagues have welcomed the removal of dictators in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya,” said Ekklesia's associate director, Symon Hill, “Many people will find their words to be inconsistent with an event that allows some of the world's most oppressive regimes to make arms deals in the capital of Britain”.

Hill continued, “When the government fails to restrain the powerful from harming others, nonviolent direct action can be an ethical and effective response. It is a tradition that stretches back to Jesus' protest in the Jerusalem Temple and includes methods developed in the campaign for Indian independence and the civil rights struggle in the US."


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