Walking for Peace at the Arms Fair in East London

Tobi Oyedele, a 24-year-old Sociology graduate, spent a year volunteering with the Columban Missionaries. She recently took part in the 'No Faith in War' peace walk on September 7, where she had the opportunity to reflect on Britain's role in global conflicts and destruction. Here, she shares her thoughts and experiences from the event.

Tobi holds the 'Columban Missionaries' banner at St. Anne's church
Tobi holds the 'Columban Missionaries' banner at St. Anne's church

I joined the ‘No Faith in War’ day peace walk against the biennial DSEI arms fair hosted in London. For those that don’t know, the DSEI (Defence Security Equipment International) arms fair is a conference where arms companies and other sellers market their products to buyers. Examples of arms showcased at the conference are tanks, bombs, guns and so much more! These weapons are lethal and are weapons of mass destruction.
We first gathered in St. Anne’s RC Church where we greeted each other, fortified ourselves with our banners, signs and posters and prayed before we endeavoured on the peace walk. It was a very hot day in contrast to the last arms fair that saw us drenched in rain. These extremes reminded me of another overarching issue – climate change! We did the stations of the Cross in the area not far from the location where the fair was taking place.

At each station, we prayed a Litany of Resistance. We prayed for God’s mercy to be shown to the victims of these weapons that are made and sold for profit and destroy the lives of many innocent civilians. We prayed for God to deliver the makers, sellers buyers and all other benefactors and beneficiaries of these weapons from the tyranny of greed, the seduction of wealth and the filth, profanity, and brutality of war. And I prayed for hearts of stone that are numb to the consequences of their actions to be turned from stone to flesh, to realise the detrimental impacts of their decisions.

After the prayer stations, we were joined by an Anglican group of peaceful protesters and as we continued our walk closer to the event’s location, the group led us in Taizé songs and prayers. The unity of our voices, as we walked, reminded me of God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
We briefly gathered at the gates of the arms fair and then we later set base further away due to the presence of many police officers who added to the already hot and intense atmosphere of the day. The pressure was on as lorries and trucks that transported military equipment were blocked by protesters and later had to turn back.

Before joining Pax Christi on their peace walk, I had little to no idea about the weapons industry and, also, the major part that the United Kingdom plays in it. After doing some searches I found out that the U.K. is one of the biggest producers of weapons and has supplied these weapons to war-torn countries. Simply put, the U.K. plays a major part in the spilt blood of many people globally. The U.K. spends a lot of money on the manufacturing, exporting, and buying of defensive security weapons and according to a report written on the Modor Intelligence website, “the U.K.’s Defence Market size is expected to grow from USD 62.60 billion in 2023 to USD 72.99 billion by 2028”. This predicted increase proves that weaponry developments and production in the U.K. will always be on the agenda which, unfortunately, means that terror and unrest will be too. I was uncomfortable upon the realisation that a large amount of these weapons used globally are British-made weapons.

The arms fair is a problem and that is why we need to protest against it.

The DSEI is an event where weapons like guns, bombs, missiles, tanks, killer drones, illegal torture equipment and many more destructive innovations are exhibited. Whilst I do personally believe that countries should have defence systems put in place, these defence systems should be used with sense and compassion. There should be a way that we defend ourselves that does not cause pain and terror in the lives of others. These British-made weapons are deadly, and they are manufactured, bought and sold to repressive power- hungry states that cause panic and unrest in the lives of many innocent civilians. These weapons are used to oppress, discriminate, and cause terror pain and death to many. The U.K. supplies arms and makes arms deals with oppressive and war-torn countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia where human rights are abused. Britain is contributing to violence around the world, and it is shameful and a disgrace to realise the reality of this.

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