Wimborne residents take part in peace demo against Arms Fair
RICHARD Bush, a Wimborne Quaker, joined Sharen Green, also a Wimborne resident and a member of St Michael’s Church in Colehill, in a national demonstration this week outside the ExCel Conference Centre in London's docklands. The protest against the Arms Fair which starts next Tuesday was organised by a coalition including Campaign Against Arms Trade, of which Sharen is a committee member.
Richard said it was the first time he had felt he must protest in such a way.
He said: “As a Quaker, I believe that working for peace, not war, through the United Nations, must be the way forward for the world. In my view, the urgent imperative for this has never been greater.”
He said he had made his views known to local MP Annette Brooke and that he understood that over 100 civil servants had been involved in assisting the preparations for this event.
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Richard said: “The Arms Fair takes place once every two years, and is the largest event of its kind in the world. Invitations go to many countries, including those with a bad human rights record. Syria has attended in previous years, as have other countries, especially in the Middle East, where weapons have been used against the people of their countries by their armed forces. The components of the chemical weapons used in Syria are thought to have been purchased after a previous Arms Fair in London.”
A candlelight peace vigil outside the conference centre was attended by 150 people.
Richard said The Bishop of Stepney had sent a message saying that the people of East London would be ashamed that such an event was taking place.
Sharen Green added: "On one hand we are upset that Syrian civilians are dying in their thousands at the hands of their own government and on the other we invite the very arms company which supplies President Assad to this obscene fair and treat them as honoured guests.
"Dictators and members of authoritarian regimes are regulary invited. This year's guest-list includes nine countries identified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as "countries of concern" in terms of routinely carrying out severe human rights abuses on their own people such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
"We've even invited Uzbekistan this year - a country where the former British ambassador Craig Murray discovered that dissidents have been boiled alive for not agreeing with the government.
"And as tax-payers we subsidise the whole shebang - I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring that my money was spent on the NHS or renewable energy."