Ash Wednesday sees arms-funded think-tank at Church House

By staff writers
February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a day when Christians repent of their sins and begin a period of fasting in preparation for Easter. On this day, Church House Conference Centre, which houses the administrative headquarters of the Church of England, yet again hosted a military think tank, ignoring the calls from Christians to stop doing business with the organisation.

The think-tank, called RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) claims to be independent, but is heavily funded by the arms industry. Its research and events are sponsored by, among others, AWE (responsible for delivering the Trident warheads) BAE Systems, Eurofighter, Finmeccanica, Lockheed Martin, MBDA missiles, Raytheon and Thales. RUSI could not exist without arms funding and its research cannot be independent.  Arms companies invest because they know that when RUSI meet, they prepare for war, and this means business for arms dealers. 

The Church of England has an ethical investment policy which rules out all the above companies. The Church earns money by hiring out part of Church House as a conference centre, so their ethical investment stance is compromised by benefiting financially from the arms trade, through hiring the venue to RUSI.  It also lends its image and a veneer of legitimacy to the arms trade, by allowing them to do business in what the public see as a church building.

Elsewhere in London, Christians gathered to mark Ash Wednesday with a peace vigil and walk to the Ministry of Defence, to mark the building with ashes and urge them to scrap Trident when the decision on renewal is taken this year. There was a liturgy including prayers for all victims of war, and reflection on the words of Pope Benedict in 2007: “Christian nonviolence is not merely a tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being….he/she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone”. The event is organised by Pax Christi and Christian CND. Meanwhile, Church House hosts an organisation sponsored by companies which build nuclear weapons.

Christians have been trying to communicate with Church House, asking them to stop hosting events these events. This comes ahead of the annual “Land Warfare Conference” in June, which attracts big arms sponsorship. Christians will continue trying to engage with Church House ahead of this event. There has so far been little to no response.

Author and activist Symon Hill said: “Jesus said that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. By hosting events sponsored by arms dealers, Church House Conference Centre is sending a clear message that they are happy to profit from those selling weapons to the dodgiest regimes.”

Emma Anthony from the Fellowship of Reconciliation said,: “It seems ironic, crude even, that on the day we’re reminded of our own death and prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus, the administrative headquarters of the Church of England hosts an event sponsored by the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers, to prepare for war and plan the deaths of thousands of civilians throughout the world.”

*Petition to Justin Welby  here

* Fellowship of Reconciliation 



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