Church House conference centre urged to refuse arms trade events

By Agencies
June 29, 2015

A coalition of Christian campaigners have called for the Church of England (CofE) to stop facilitating arms trade events. This follows the news that the conference centre owned by Church House, the administrative headquarters of CofE, will be hosting an event sponsored and attended by some of the world's biggest arms companies.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Land Warfare Conference 2015, taking place in Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, on 30 June – 01 July will have a focus on land-based conflict. A second RUSI Conference, the Chief of the Air Staff's Air Power Conference, will be held between 15 – 16 July.

The event will be addressed by the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP, and sponsored by a number of arms companies, including the world's biggest arms manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and MBDA Missile Systems, which sold weapons to Colonel Gaddafi

Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi said: “The CofE statement on ethical investment states that its investment bodies do not wish directly to profit from activities that are inconsistent with Christian values. How then is it comfortable to host and accept money from some of the world's biggest arms companies? ”

Church House includes the administrative headquarters of the Church Commissioners, the Archbishops’ Council and other parts of the Church of England. The Conference Centre is a subsidiary company of the Church House Corporation, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Campaigners have been bolstered by confirmation that St Paul's Cathedral “will not accept bookings, or sponsorship of bookings, from any company involved in indiscriminate weaponry or any company that receives more than 10 per cent of revenue from the sale or production of weaponry.”

Emma Anthony, of Fellowship of Reconciliation, said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, should intervene and reject the arms trade for good. Church House Conference Centre's hire conditions state that not all events are appropriate to the venue; surely this includes arms-funded events? St Paul's Cathedral will not take money from arms companies and Church House Conference Centre must follow their lead.”

Unfortunately this is not the first time that Church House Conference Centre has hosted arms companies. Similar conferences took place in July 2014 and were met with opposition from Christian activists, who petitioned Church House and sent letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Symon Hill of the Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network said: “These companies are not hiring Church House Conference Centre because they want to support the Church. They are doing it because it's good for business. Unfortunately, Church House Conference Centre is giving practical support and a veneer of legitimacy to an industry that profits from war.”

Campaigners, including clergy will be holding a vigil and Eucharist outside the Conference Centre in Deans Yard from 8.00 am on 30th June 2015.

[Ekk/4]

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