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Blessed are the Peacemakers

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 15 September 2013

A quarter of the population of Syria are now displaced people fleeing from the violence.

While the world debates the use of chemical weapons in Syria the bombs continue to rain down worse than ever.  These are some of the most horrifying images we have ever seen – children with their skin burnt off by incendiary bombs, hospital floors filled with the wounded while stretchers arrive with screaming patients and gaping wounds.

And while all this is happening about nine miles away from our Houses of Parliament, the Excel Centre is hosting one of the largest arms fairs in the world – basically a trade show for arms-makers, dealers and brokers.  More than 30,000 visitors are expected.  The arms trade wants to target priority markets like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, Columbia, Nigeria, India and Pakistan.  There are stalls of every conceivable form of military hardware, from the preferred sniper’s bullet, to grenade launchers, to a stall selling outlawed leg and waist irons.  The Russians, suppliers of weapons to Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, also has a large pavilion at the arms fair.  I went to demonstrate outside Excel on Sunday.  A crowd of little more than 150 of us: well-meaning but nothing that could disrupt the multibillion pound arms business taking place inside the security fence so well protected by British police.  The demonstration included a few CND banners, a group of Christians singing hymns, some Quakers holding a silent vigil, two Buddhists beating a drum, a few people shouting at a crowd through a megaphone that was hard to hear and a load of younger people lying on the ground pretending to be dead, so the police couldn’t move them on.  It felt like a lollipop lady trying to stop the invasion of Iraq.  “Looking after your flock are you Padre?” one policeman asked me cynically.  “I think your life would also be a lot safer if we did not allow the sale of arms,” I replied.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.”  But where is the 21st century peace movement?  How long will we allow this arms trade which has caused such untold misery and carnage to continue?

Revd Richard Carter