The vigil outside the RUSI Land Warfare conference today was a success, hoorah! Eight Christians turned out for a vigil in protest against Church House (owned by the CofE) hosting a military conference funded by arms dealers.
We were asked to move a few times (including a warning about calling the police), but the most entertaining was from the security chappy sporting a British Legion pin and a Help for Heroes lanyard. He asked us to move because “political protests” were not allowed on the private land. Clearly, raising money for those injured by weapons is a completely different, non-political matter to objecting to their production in the first place.
A man from RUSI offered us the chance to go inside and take part in the conference. We politely turned down his offer, saying we’d rather draw attention to the sponsorship rather than sit at the back while it goes ahead. One of our number, Christian writer Symon Hill, asked whether we could come to the “Chief of Air Staff’s Air Power Conference” on the 9th July. He was more hesitant about that, so we’ll follow up with an email and see if we are allowed to see what of sort event BAE, Lockheed, Finmeccanica et al are funding. We’re fairly confident it’s not going to be non-military attitudes to conflict transformation.
Other than that, the general public were curious about what we were speaking out against, many took photos and lots of thumbs-up. They seemed as surprised as we were that a church building welcomes arms dealers…
We then went to Methodist Central Hall for breakfast and were asked to leave our banners in the porch, “because the church has to be neutral at all times”. Says who?!*
Do come to the vigil at the (sigh) next arms-sponsored conference at Church House, on 9th July at 10:45am.
*I wonder if they know about the great stuff the Methodist church does about arms and violence in general?
The event was covered in the Church Times: