Every two years, the global arms trade comes to London. The Defence and Security Equipment (DSEI) Arms Fair, one of the world’s largest arms fairs, returns to London’s Docklands this September. It will be held at the vast ExCeL Centre in East London from 12-15 September.
Supported by the Ministry of Defence and the UK Government’s Defence and Security Exports Unit, the publicity for the event says that this will be the largest fair in its 24-year history and will feature over 2,800 defence and security suppliers. So, leading arms companies plan to set up shop, marketing their lethal wares to an expected 36,000+ attendees from around the world. It is described as the premier event of its kind in bringing governments, the armed forces and the arms industry together.
Since the event’s purpose is to market deadly weapons and military technology to representatives of states, some of which have committed war crimes and human rights violations, it always attracts demonstrations, vigils and pilgrimages. A Peace Pilgrimage – supported by Catholic groups including the Passionists and Pax Christi – has been organised from Oxford to ExCel 5-11 September, walking to protest the DSEI event and the UK government’s complicity in the Arms Trade.
The arms fair is where those who profit from war, repression and injustice do business and this is where we can challenge them. The Columbans are supporting protests against the fair and all that it stands for.
Two events we will be attending in the preparation week before the DSEI opens are a ‘No Faith in War Day’ on Thursday 7 September. Starting with a short service at 10.30 am at St Anne’s Church, we will then join a Pax Christi Peace Walk to the nearby ExCeL Centre, pausing to pray at different points along the way before joining other Faith Groups for a day of prayer and events.
Then on Monday 11 September, we will join a Silent Candlelit Vigil, 7-8 pm. Meeting at 6.15 pm at Royal Victoria DLR Station, we will walk to the ExCeL Centre for a Silent Vigil on the eve of the opening of the fair. If you can join us, please bring candles in jars/lanterns.
In September, in addition to the DSEI Arms Fair, we will also focus on the Catholic Nonviolence Days of Action. The Days will be held between 21 September (International Day of Peace) and 2 October (International Day of Nonviolence and Gandhi’s birthday) when Catholics around the world will be invited to pray and reflect on the Vow of Nonviolence, its meaning and invitation, at personal and community level. A core solidarity action during the days is to find out more about Pax Christi partner organisations and to send an email message of support to them.
Every year, 12 billion bullets are produced – enough to kill each person on Earth twice. Daily, thousands become victims of armed conflict, facing injury, death, or the heartbreak of displacement. Wars disproportionately devastate civilian lives, with guided bombs, missiles, and artillery shattering communities and infrastructure. Beyond the battlefields, the shadow of gun violence looms large; globally, it claims over 500 lives daily.
Our protests send a strong message for peace and justice. They signify a dedication to non-violence and the belief that peaceful resolutions can be found for conflicts. Do join us and Pax Christi England and Wales if you can, or offer prayerful support.
Pope Francis said on World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, 2023:
“It is our responsibility to help eradicate hatred and violence from our hearts. We encourage you to lay down your arms, to reduce military spending to provide for humanitarian needs, to convert the tools of death into tools of life”