A Call to Disarm: Why the church should not shield the arms industry
We hear from Stephen, our outgoing Faith in Action intern, on the recent nonviolent protest at Church House organised by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
On Wednesday 15 July, members of the Student Christian Movement and fellow Christians joined together in a nonviolent demonstration outside Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, London. The message? That the image of the church should not be used to create profit for the arms industry and give moral legitimacy to those who benefit from war.
Every year, Church House Conference Centre is the venue for two conferences organised by the military think tank RUSI. Both events are heavily sponsored by arms manufacturers including Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. Last Wednesday, the Fellowship of Reconciliation organised a demonstration outside the centre, with students joining in with an act of worship and repentance.
The protest came after a petition to Archbishop Justin Welby for the church to sever all links with the arms industry gathered 3,000 signatures. Symon Hill, speaking in Ekklesia said, “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.”
Outgoing Faith in Action intern Stephen attended the protest, along with fellow intern Jacque Hall and SCM member Emma Temple. Read his thoughts below.
Reflection from Stephen
Last Wednesday I shared in something with which I am so familiar - a liturgy - outside a building with which I am so familiar - a church’s building - but in an entirely new context for me, one full of tension and purpose. Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, was hosting a military conference heavily sponsored by arms manufacturers including Lockheed Martin, the largest in the world. Meanwhile a small group of believers congregated outside the doors. With sung and said words proclaiming the peace and humility of our Lord Jesus, we begged Church House to question whether its hosting of such an event stands in contrast with its beliefs.
My immediate thought upon arrival was ‘why are there not more people here?’, quickly followed by ‘why have I never been to anything like this before?’ I suppose the answers to those questions are one and the same. I am so used to the proclamation of my beliefs being enclosed within the safe walls of a church building, but it is when they stand in direct contrast with the injustices of the world that they take on a whole new meaning, and wield their true power. Jesus is Lord, not only at the altar, but also in the midst of the arms trade, where enemies arm each other and profit from pain. I can have faith in Jesus’ Lordship where it offers me personal safety and peace, but can I have faith in a place so seemingly saturated in greed and conflict? I bloody well hope so, because nothing else can.
Arms dealers are having their lunch as Christian activists outside sing, pray and say #DisarmChurchHouse— Sarah Reader (@SarahReader0) July 15, 2015
Sign the petition calling on Archbishop Justin Welby to stop the Church House Conference Centre being used to host events sponsored by the arms industry.Tags: church houseprotestarms industryjustin welbyfaith in action