BY No Author | June 29 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-ARMS-WITNESS

Church condemns ‘arms fair by any other name’ in Glasgow

Justice and Peace Scotland and Christian groups criticise city’s hosting of defence conference - By Peter Diamond and Daniel Harkins

The Church has condemned a controversial military defence ­conference being held in Glasgow as an ‘arms fair by any other name,’ saying it is ‘a ­disgrace to continue to squander so much of our planet’s wealth and resource in pursuit of ideologies of destruction and power.’

The comments by Justice and Peace Scotland, which advises the ­Scottish Bishops’ Conference in matters ­relating to social justice, ­international peace and human rights, came as the Underwater Defence Technology (UDT) ­conference took place in ­Glasgow from June 19-28.

The UDT involves presentations on new subsea weaponry and technology with around 1,100 people from 40 countries expected to attend.

Representatives of Justice and Peace Scotland joined unions and peace groups outside of the SEC venue on the banks of the River Clyde.

A heavy police presence was at the scene moving campaigners—some dressed as the grim reaper—away from the venue entrance.

A handful of protesters staged a ­­­sit-down protest past the barriers and two people are believed to have been arrested.

 

Disgrace

A spokeswoman for Justice and Peace said: “The Underwater Defence ­Technology event in Glasgow is an arms fair by any other name.

“When the publicly available ­information promotes discussions and workshops on improving weapons capabilities it is beyond ­comprehension that the cause could be in the pursuit of peace.

“As the world faces the greatest ­displacement of people in our shared history, many driven from their homes by war, poverty, lack of food or ­opportunity, it is a disgrace to continue to squander so much of our planet’s wealth and resource in pursuit of ­ideologies of destruction and power. We remember the words of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace who told those who would listen that it is the peacemakers who are blessed as children of God.”

Frances Gallagher, who leads ­campaigns for Justice and Peace, said a few hundred took part in protests.

“We shouldn’t be selling bombs as it affects millions of innocent victims all over the world,” she said. “We are there to represent those innocent ­victims in countries where there is conflict due to the arms trade, and also to send a message to the government and politicians who promote arms that it is not acceptable.”

Ms Gallagher added that Justice and Peace are also ensuring the next ­generation is informed about the ­campaign for peace.

“We are really trying to engage more with young people through social media and in our schools with our involvement in the Caritas Award.

“Our aim is to rejuvenate the whole network of Justice and Peace in ­Scotland, and our presence protesting at the UDT conference helps show that we are active and engaging.”

 

Catholic worker

The Glasgow Catholic Worker were among a number of groups who signed a letter to the council condemning the arms fair.

The local authority, which has 90 per cent ownership in the company which owns the SEC, subsequently removed its ‘People Make Glasgow’ logo from the conference’s branding last week.

The Catholic Worker also held a separate witness outside Glasgow City Chambers. Michael Sutherland from the group said their aim was not so much protest or demonstration but as a witness. “As Catholics we feel we had to be there to say that, as Christians, we do not want our name being used to sell arms which end up being used to kill other people,” he said.

“Pope Francis has made a number of statements about how repugnant the arms trade is so it was important we as Catholics witnessed against that.”

In a speech to the UN in 2015, the Holy Father said: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on ­individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

On Monday, Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said in a ­statement the council is not responsible for the conference or contracts between the organisers and the venue. She said the contract was organised before SNP took control of the ­administration from Labour in the 2017 council elections.

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