Police try to stop Christian worshippers opposing London arms fair

By staff writers
September 8, 2013

Dozens of Christians have taken part in prayers and and an act of 'exorcism' on the road to the London arms fair, despite three attempts by police to stop the act of worship going ahead.

Three Church of England priests peacefully led dozens of worshippers into the road on the eastern approach to the Excel Centre in east London, where the arms fair, known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), is due to be held on Tuesday 10 September.

Equipment, including weapons, was being transported into the venue today - facing protests and blockades.

Police tried to stop the three priests - the Rev Chris Howson, the Rev Dr Keith Hebden and the Rev Helen Hayes - from walking into the road. As they calmly walked on, worshippers knelt down in the road.

Together they prayed for Jesus' victory over "the spirits of militarism and violence" and asked God's forgiveness for tolerating the arms trade.

The police formed a close circle around the worshippers and twice threatened them with arrest if they did not leave, despite the act of worship taking only around 15 minutes.

Many non-Christian protesters came to express their support, cheered and participated in sharing the peace (a handshake or hug) at the end of the event. Several worshippers also tried to share the peace with police officers.

The event was organised by anti-capitalist network Christianity Uncut, with the support of members of Christian CND, the Student Christian Movement (SCM), the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Christian Network of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Earlier in the day, police arrested a member of the co-ordinating group of Christianity Uncut, Siobhan Grimes. She had joined others in peacefully sitting in the road to prevent arms-related equipment being taken into the Excel Centre. She has been charged with obstructing a highway and will appear in court on 4 November 2013.

During the act of worship, the Rev Chris Howson, a priest in Sunderland, said:"Sisters and brothers, we gather to exorcise the demons of Militarism and Violence: To call an end to the evil horrors of the arms trade and to caste out the spirit of warfare and barbarism from this place. We remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the continuing global arms race, the failure of the nuclear powers to observe their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the polluted earth, the world governed by fear instead of justice, the futility of deterrence, the waste of public money."

Symon Hill, a member of Christianity Uncut who has been actively involved in Quaker groups and also an attender of a central London Baptist church, knelt in the road to participate in the act of worship.

He said afterwards: "This was a very moving and spiritually deep experience. Jesus' exorcisms challenged the powers of his day, drew links between personal suffering and wider injustices and liberated the people involved. Today we witnessed to God's power, the power of love and justice, in the midst of an event dedicated to the idols of money and military might."

* The full text of the liturgy used during the act of worship can be read at http://christianityuncut.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/liturgy-of-exorcism-an...


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