Catholic bishops have severely criticised the arms trade on the eve of one of the world’s largest fairs.
Three English bishops and a Scottish bishop joined justice and peace activist in signing a statement attacking the trade in global weaponry.
The intervention comes just days before the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair is held in London’s docklands.
The event will bring together more than 1,600 exhibitors and 30,000 delegates from all over the world and the sales of anything from sniper rifles to tanks, military aircraft and naval vessels could be negotiated.
But in the statement, the Catholic Church objects to arms deals and quotes the remarks of Pope Francis that it is a trade “drenched in blood”.
“We recognise the right of every country to defend itself against attack, but we must never ignore, or allow ourselves to become complicit in, the destruction of human life and violations of human dignity made possible by the sale of weaponry,” said the signatories to the statement.
“The conflicts fuelled by this trade harm the poorest communities, force people to flee their homes as refugees, and have devastating consequences for our environment,” the said.
“We stand alongside all those people of goodwill who are peacefully campaigning against the arms trade and join in prayer with the Holy Father that our leaders may commit themselves to ending it, in pursuit of peace and care for our whole human family.”
The statement was signed by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, chair of the Department of International Affairs of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, Scotland, president of Justice and Peace Scotland; Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham, lead English bishop for peace and disarmament issues, and Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster, lead bishop for migrants and refugees.
It was also signed by representatives of Catholic peace groups Pax Christi England and Wales and Pax Christi Scotland, Catholic overseas development agencies CAFOD and SCIAF, and by the leader of the National Justice and Peace Network.
The DSEI arms fair, one of the largest in the world, is supported by the UK Ministry of Defence and by the UK Defence and Security Exports, part of the government’s department for international trade.
On its website, the fiar claims to connect “governments, national armed forces, industry thought leaders and the entire defence and security supply chain on a global scale”.
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