Could we abolish the arms trade and prosper?

April 13, 2017

Earlier this month *Imam Farhad Ahmad was moved to write to the Financial Times about plans by the US administration to approve weapons sales to nations with known human rights abuses. Multibillion dollars worth of sales of F-16s to Bahrain and precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia are on the table. He continued:

“These plans and other sales, including those that have been making their way into the hands of Isis from eastern Europe, did worry me, but what made me really convinced that it ought to be stopped was when I listened to a Muslim leader refer to curbing arms trade as a “ready-made” instant solution to world disorder.

National Peace Symposium

On 25th March 2017, the 14th National Peace Symposium was hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in London with an audience of more than 1000 people, from 30 countries – including more than 600 non-Muslims. Ms Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima bomb survivor and peace activist, was presented with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace in recognition of her outstanding efforts in campaigning for nuclear disarmament. Farhad Ahmad wrote:

“I was at the National Peace Symposium at UK’s largest mosque last week, where more than 1,000, including over 600 non-Muslims, had gathered to listen to a Muslim caliph. He called on effective sanctions to be put on weapons from powerful nations, including those in the west and eastern Europe, which are fuelling conflicts in Muslim countries.

“There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that “A wise word is the lost property of a believer”. I think it is time that governments listened to these words of the Caliph and adopted them like their lost property, rather than worrying about their coffers:

“For the sake of the good of mankind, governments should disregard fears that their economies will suffer if the arms trade is curbed. Instead, they should think about the type of world they wish to bequeath to those that follow them.”

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We recommend that he strengthens his case by drawing on the work of noted arms conversion authority, *Dr Steven Schofield. Though not underestimating the complexity of such a change, he calls for the release of skills and finance for the rebuilding of economic, social and environmental security. In Arms Conversion – A Policy Without a Purpose, Steve says:

“Turning swords into plowshares remains one of our most evocative images of peace, reflecting the universal desire to bring an end to war and to use skills for productive rather than destructive purposes.”

Since the 1950s, Schofield points out, a permanent military-industrial complex and highly specialised arms corporations in aerospace, shipbuilding,  engineering and electronics has emerged “to satisfy the byzantine demands of the MoD” and the context is completely different from that time of restructuring after the Second World War, when there was “pent-up demand for goods made effective by wartime savings and sectors with a similar skills base such as civil aircraft, communication satellites and cruise ships, already have well-served mature civil markets”.

Curb exports and fund a major arms conversion programme

He pointed out in another report, Making Arms, Wasting Skills: “[C]entral government has a vital role to play in developing a radical, political economy of arms conversion and common security. By moving away from military force projection and arms sale promotion, the UK could carry out deep cuts in domestic procurement including the cancellation of Trident and other major offensive weapons platforms, as well as adopting comprehensive controls on arms exports, including the suspension of weapons exports to the Middle East. The substantial savings in military expenditure could help to fund a major arms conversion programme.

“Here the emphasis would be on environmental challenges, including a multi-billion pound public investment in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind and wave power, that would substantially cut the UK’s carbon emissions and reduce dependency on imported oil, gas and uranium supplies. These new industries will also generate more jobs than those lost from the restructuring of the arms industry. In this way, the UK would be taking a leading role in establishing a new form of international security framework based on disarmament and sustainable economic development”.

Will the peace movement and unions heed this message? 

*Farhad Ahmad Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Surbiton, UK  

*Steve completed a doctorate on arms conversion and was co-founder of the Project on Demilitarisation in the 1990s. His most publications include Trident and Employment: The UK’s Industrial and Technological Network for Nuclear Weapons (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament); Making Arms, Wasting Skills : Alternatives to Militarism and Arms Production (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) and Local Sufficiency and Environmental Recovery (Local Economy Journal, Vol 24, No 6, pp 439-447). He lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

 

 

 

 


Now open: Imperial War Museum exhibition: People Power: Fighting for Peace

March 25, 2017

IWM London – 23 March – 28 August 2017

Take a journey from the First World War to the present day, exploring how peace movements have influenced perceptions of war and conflict in this major exhibition.

From conscientious objectors to peace camps and modern day marches, Fighting for Peace tells the stories of passionate people over the past one hundred years and the struggles they have endured for the anti-war cause.

A march of 2,000 anti-conscription protesters in London, May 1939

Over three hundred objects including paintings, literature, posters, placards, banners, badges and music reveal the breadth of creativity of anti-war protest movements, reflecting the cultural mood of each era.

 

Book Now

 

 

 

 


Paris Peace Conference 2017

January 20, 2017

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Vanderbilt Model UN website

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Democracy in action: Swiss people had a direct say in military procurement

November 21, 2016

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Many people in Switzerland, a country which has not fought a war in 200 years, are convinced there is no military threat now, nor in the foreseeable future. Swiss voters therefore, in 2014, blocked the government’s $3.5 billion deal to replace its fleet of Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters with 22 Gripen fighter jets from Saab.

Vested commercial interests and the Swiss upper and lower houses of parliament backed the deal, mounting a campaign of expensive advertisements favour of buying the jets, but despite this public relations onslaught, Swiss Socialists, Greens and the Group for Switzerland without an Army secured a referendum by collecting the 50,000 signatures needed.

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Reuters reported that around 53.4% voted against the government’s proposal and twelve cantons rejected the creation of a fund for the acquisition – the no vote was especially strong in the west of the country.

Andreas Weibel of the Group for Switzerland without an Army, emphasises that only in Switzerland do people have a direct say in their country’s military procurement.

Two years later, however, as Flight Global records, a second effort will be made to  acquire these new fighter planes: defence minister Guy Parmelin has announced that a study into the acquisition of a new fighter will be submitted to parliament in 2017.

 

 

 


Pope Francis: the cynical will mock, the inhibited, cringe and those ‘beholden to the weapons industry’ will do their utmost to undermine

March 25, 2016
pope2http://aleteia.org/2016/03/24/gesture-of-brotherhood-pope-washes-feet-of-muslim-christian-refugees-as-brussels-recovers/

Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees during Holy Thursday Mass at a refugee centre on the outskirts of Rome.

Nicole Winfield reported from Rome in The Washington Post that in Castelnuovo di Porto, Pope Francis declared Muslim, Christian and Hindu refugees children of the same God, as he performed a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time of increased anti-Muslim sentiment following the Brussels attacks.

Francis denounced the carnage as a “gesture of war” carried out by blood-thirsty people beholden to the weapons industry.

“We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” the pope said in his off-the-cuff homily, delivered in the windy courtyard of the center.

Francis shocked many Catholics within weeks of his 2013 election by performing the ritual on women and Muslims at a juvenile detention center. After years of violating the rules, in January he changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, explained that the Vatican norms are meant for traditional liturgies in Catholic communities, not necessarily a unique papal Mass where the overall message is one of universal brotherhood and the love of God for all his children. He added that Francis clearly intended the message to be universal. “All of us, together: Muslims, Hindu, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals. But brothers, children of the same God.

“We want to live in peace, integrated.”

 

 

 

 


Tel Aviv rally: is the wind of change in Israel-Palestine gathering pace?

October 25, 2015

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Masses of those who look for peace and more evenly distributed prosperity, now able to share their news and their views online, are responding politically to the messages of Tsipras, Corbyn, Trudeau and Sanders.

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Hours ago, it was reported from Tel Aviv that thousands of Israelis rallied on Saturday for fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Activist group Peace Now — which organised the rally along with the left-wing Meretz party and others — estimated there were some 6,000 people attending. Daniel Dojon told AFP he came “because the situation is crazy. I am not talking about safety but the lack of (political) progress, the lack of hope. Israeli politicians are becoming more and more extreme.”

israel rabinOn the eve of the 20th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, demonstrators chanted “Jews and Arabs don’t want to hate each other” and “Israel, Palestine, two states for two peoples”. They gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where the Nobel peace laureate was shot on November 4, 1995 by a right-wing Israeli radical, Yigal Amir, who was opposed to the peace process and is now serving a life sentence. According to the Hebrew calendar the anniversary falls now, rather than in November.

Today, President Reuven Rivlin will host a candle-lighting tribute in Rabin’s memory and on Monday there will be a state memorial ceremony alongside his grave in the national cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

“The path that was stopped in 1995 is very much the path that needs to be taken today,” Peace Now spokeswoman Anat Ben Nun told AFP

She said that Saturday night’s protest was aimed at the policies of the incumbent right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On the same day, in Amman, John Kerry met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman. He announced round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s agreement to reaffirm Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the religious complex, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and as the Noble Sanctuary – Haram al-Sharif – to Muslims. “. . . we’ve agreed that this is a first step to creating some space in order to allow us to resume those steps and that dialogue,” he said.

israel kerry jordanJordanian King Abdullah II, right, met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 24 2015.

Though decorated for service in Vietnam, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organization and appeared in the Fulbright Hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where he stated United States war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of war crimes. In 1971, when the veterans gathered in Washington Mall for a week-long demonstration, he joined others in throwing ribbons and medals over a fence erected to prevent them from getting close to the front of the US Capitol.

A person standing near him recalled that he said, “There is no violent reason for this; I’m doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all.”

Amen!