Over 700 people of different faiths (including a number of Quakers from Central England) attended the No Faith in War protest against the DSEI arms fair in London on 3rd September. Pete Doubtfire, from our project Peace Hub, reflects on a day of faith in action.
No Faith in War was a vibrant day of worship and resistance, part of a week of action aiming to disrupt the set up of Defence and Security Equipment International, one of the world’s largest weapons exhibitions. Trucks bringing everything from bullets and surveillance cameras to tanks and fighter jets were completely blocked at one private access road to the ExCel exhibitions centre, and severely restricted at the other.
Alongside Anglican & Catholic processions, Buddhist chanting and Muslim-led prayers, two Quaker meetings for worship took place in the road, some of the largest ever outside a Yearly Meeting. In the silence, we held in the light the victims of the arms trade across the world, and peacefully witnessed against the buying and selling of deadly weapons. Quakers in Birmingham (and several other locations around Britain) joined us in worship at the same time, and many others had crafted mini-banners with messages of support.
During the morning worship, two people who had used lock-on tubes to block the road were being cut out by the police, and we upheld them as they were arrested. Despite this, people were able to continue occupying the road for several hours after the meeting ended (pictured).
Half an hour into the afternoon worship the police tried to interrupt the meeting to move us onto the verge, but people stayed put and the silence was held until the elders brought the meeting to a close at the planned time. Several Quakers felt led to remain in the road at this point, and we sang Dear Friends together in support of them, as they were each in turn arrested. Volunteer legal observer and arrestee support teams made sure that those taken into custody were treated properly, and greeted when later released.
Although this may all seem unusual compared to Sunday worship in a meeting house, I felt that we were being very much led by the Spirit to be there. It was inspiring to act together as a ‘gentle, angry people‘ (as one of the songs we sang together goes) and the thought of those who would be affected by the weapons sold at the fair was powerful motivation. Protests against DSEI are taking place throughout the week, and I hope we can continue to uphold those participating.
A network of Quakers called Roots of Resistance had supported people to be there, including many who had not been to this type of demonstration before. We hope that this network will continue to support Quaker witness against the arms trade into the future. Peace Hub is also available as a resource to find out about the arms trade, and how we can oppose it.