Saturday 12 September 2015

Taize Againt The Tanks

This year sees the return of the DSEi (Defence, Security Equipment International) weapons fair down in London. Held at the Excel exhibition centre in the docklands area, it is said to be the biggest arms fair of its kind in the world.

30,000 delegates from 150 countries will view and buy the latest military equipment from the worlds arms manufacturers. Britain is now the second biggest exporter of 'defence' equipment, with over £8 billion sales in 2014, and over £3 billion in 'security' equipment.

Unfortunately, so much of this weaponry ends up in the hands of countries who have appalling human rights records, or happily use the weapons to attack other nations. Worse still, these weapons end up being the ones used in the in conflict zones such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

The arms trade is one of the root causes of our current refugee crisis. We fuel the conflicts of tomorrow right here in London.

So we tried to highlight the madness of the arms trade, by attempting to disrupt the preparation for the fair. This meant teams of people getting in front of trucks and military vehicles entering the Excel centre. Each day, different groups took turns to cause mayhem. I joined in on the 'Stop arming Israel' and the 'No faith in war' days.

It was inspirational to watch so many different groups take it in turns to block the entrance, using dancing, painting and even funeral processions.

My own contribution was to hold a service in the road using Taize style chants. Taize (an ecumenical community in France) is a place of peace and reconciliation, so it seemed to make sense to use the simple singling style as a way of pursuing Non Violent Direct Action.

As we sang in the road - a truck carrying a 'Thales Bushmaster' turned up - so we keep singing as we stepped in front of it. It was extraordinary to watch the truck forced into reversing by the power of prayer and direct action!

As I write this, there is still a week of direct action planned - so why not pop down to Excel and do your bit to disrupt the arms trade!