Christian campaigners condemn Church of England for backing arms trade

Photo courtesy of Pax Christi
Demonstrators congregated outside a Church of England conference center on Wednesday to protest against the Church’s decision to hold an arms trade event there.

The Church House Conference Center hosts two annual events for military think tank RUSI, both of which are sponsored by arms giants Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Finmeccanica.

Wednesday’s demonstration, organized by Christian Group the Fellowship of Reconciliation, aimed to display a non-violent protest against the image of the Church being used to raise funds for the arms trade.

While we strongly feel that the military is a bad thing, we’re focusing on the sponsors of the event in particular and the fact that these companies are ruled out in the CofE’s ethical investments policy,” the group’s website reads.

The protest comes as a letter calling for the Archbishop Justin Welby to sever ties with the arms trade has reached nearly 3,000 signatures.

The campaign, backed by activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), urges the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, to give his “assurance that the conference center will never again host events which support and legitimize the arms industry.”

READ MORE: ‘Stop profiting from war,’ Christian protesters tell Church of England

“Hosting such events supports and legitimizes the arms industry and the terrible destruction it causes. It helps sustain the status quo of huge military spending, at the cost of addressing real human needs” CAAT says.

Symon Hill, a writer and coordinator of Christians for Economic Justice, said the conferences showed that the church is “happy to profit from those selling weapons to the dodgiest regimes.”

Membership and Outreach officer for the Fellowship of Reconciliation Emma Anthony added that the letter and demonstration were part of an ongoing protest about the church’s dealings with arms traders.

“We have been trying to communicate with Church House Conference Centre for a number of years, but they’ve not engaged in constructive dialogue. We have written to them about the sponsors, but they have ignored our simple questions,” she said.

By taking it to the next level and writing to Justin Welby, we are showing that we won’t we won’t drop this until Church House Conference Centre drops the events and changes its policy.”

Reverend James Mercer, an Anglican Vicar in Harrow Weald, further argued the dealings are “wholly inappropriate.

“With the Church of England rightly avoiding investment in companies involved in military products, it seems wholly inappropriate for Church House Conference Centre, despite its ‘management separation’ from the Church, to host conferences sponsored by arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin and Finmeccanica,” he said.

Wednesday’s protest follows a similar demonstration that happened on June 30, which saw Christian campaigners hold a vigil outside the Church of England’s (CoE) administrative headquarters, to call on the Church to divest from the global arms trade and stop facilitating weapons dealers.