Violence, war and conflict remain a common occurrence across the globe. In 2018, 34 armed conflicts were recorded across the globe, 33 of which were still active by the end of the year.
The UK has a role in international conflict, through providing aid, diplomacy or defence. However, at the same time as sending millions of pounds in aid relief to the casualties of conflict, the UK supports the manufacture and sale of arms to some buyers actively involved in conflict. In 2018, the UK sold £14bn of arms to other countries, 80% going to the Middle East. That same year, £1,299m of UK government’s bilateral aid was spent on humanitarian aid.
The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair held every two years in London, plays a significant role in the government’s quest to establish the UK as the world’s second largest arms exporter. It has been heavily supported by the UK government and brings together arms companies and weapons buyers from all over the world, including some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. In 2019, protests at the DSEI Arms Fair, saw thousands of activists obstructing and delaying the set-up of the DSEI arms fair, including faith groups.
Government military spending in the UK currently amounts to 2% of GDP – three times the spending on international development aid. Furthermore, the UK has refused to participate in the United Nation’s Nuclear Ban Treaty, although the treaty is supported by the majority of countries globally.
Funding and support for weapons development doesn’t only come from government, but financial institutions also, such as banks and pension providers. Many investment and pension portfolios include shares in nuclear and other weapons providers.
Our hope this year is that Christians can actively stand up against these actions and work for promoting peace. Throughout scripture, the language of ‘shalom’ is used to describe the concept of peace.
‘Shalom’ encompasses more than simply the absence of war – it refers to universal flourishing, wholeness and delight for the whole of a society. We see this as God’s desire for peace in Isaiah 2:4 where ‘swords’ turn into ‘ploughshares’ and ‘spears into pruning-hooks’. God’s desire is that we create nations that invest in helping communities to flourish and avoid the idolatry of weapons of war.
Jesus himself was the Prince of Peace, and he calls us not to be peacekeepers, but Peacemakers (Matt 5:9). Being a peacemaker is an active vocation – not a passive role where we simply seek to avoid conflict, but a calling to actively create peace and strive for reconciliation. Our work this year will therefore continue to seek to influence government policy around defence and security and equip Christians with the tools and opportunities to be peacemakers, with a particular focus around ethical investments and the promotion of the nuclear ban treaty. Together, we will work to foster a world in which all actively work for peace.
Find out more about our work on peacemaking here: