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 12th-15th 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, arriving next Monday (11th 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,” said Ellen Teague, who runs the media desk of the Justice, Peace and Ecology (JPE) team of the Columban Missionaries in Britain.
“The Columbans are supporting protests against the fair and all that it stands for.”
Then on Monday (11th September), the marchers will join a Silent Candlelit Vigil, 7-8 pm. Meeting at 6.15 pm at Royal Victoria DLR Station, and then 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,” said Ellen.
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,” said Ellen.
“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.”
To coincide with the DSEI arms fair, the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales have issued a statement condemning the “immoral” sales of weapons for profit.
Pope Francis reminds us that while it may sometimes be legitimate to provide military assistance for countries to defend themselves against aggression, promoting the sale of weapons for profit is immoral and inflicts grave harm upon our human family.
Through hosting one of the world’s largest arms fairs, our country is complicit in fuelling conflicts around the world which destroy lives, drive people from their homes, trap communities in poverty, and damage the environment.
We once again send our prayers and best wishes to all those who, inspired by Christ’s call to be peacemakers, are opposing the arms fair.
Bishop Declan Lang
Chair – Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department for Interantional Affairs
Bishop Nicholas Hudson
Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department for Interantional Affairs