Church House - no place for an arms conference

By Symon Hill
July 9, 2014

The Church House Conference Centre, located in the Church of England's administrative headquarters near Westminster Abbey, is again to host a conference sponsored by arms dealers.

The “Air Power” conference, running today and tomorrow (9-10 July), is sponsored by some of the world's most vicious arms companies, including BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Finmeccanica.

All these companies are complicit in human rights abuses around the world, through selling arms to tyrannical regimes that have turned weapons against their own people.

The Church of England's own investments policy rules out buying shares in any of them (and any other company that makes more than ten percent of its profit from arms). But the Church of England is now profiting from these companies by renting its facilities to them. Many Anglicans, other Christians and other people of goodwill are naturally angry about this.

When Church House hosted a similar conference – on “Land Warfare” - last month, a senior Church of England spokesperson told the Church Times that it was not an “arms conference” because the booking had been made by a thinktank.

It's true that both conferences are run by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a militarist thinktank. But the fact that RUSI is a thinktank does not mean it is independent or unbiased. More importantly, the authorities at Church House must know very well that this conference is sponsored by arms firms.

To claim that it is not an arms conference is either staggeringly naïve or wilfully misleading.

To resist this appalling event, you can:

* Sign a brief email to Justin Webly, Archbishop of Canterbury, at http://act.caat.org.uk/lobby/churchhouse.

* Join a peaceful vigil from 10.45 am outside Church House tomorrow (people of all religions and none are welcome). Details at http://www.for.org.uk/events/rusi-air. Invite friends on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1460011800912747/?ref_dashboard_filter=u....

* If you can't attend the vigil in person, you could organise a vigil in your own area, with your own church or other group.

* Pray about the issue and for all involved (on all sides).

* Raise the issue in your own church or mention your concerns to others.

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(c) Symon Hill is a Christian activist and writer. He is an associate of Ekklesia and a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). His latest book, Digital Revolutions: Activism in the internet age, can be ordered from the publisher at http://newint.org/books/politics/digital-revolutions.

For links to more of Symon's work, please visit http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.