Once again we hear of kids being massacred at a school by a man with a gun. Most people I know who live in Britain rather than America are horrified and puzzled by the American obsession with gun ownership. The statistics clearly point to drastically reduced gun related deaths when there is strong gun ownership control. But strong government control is anathema to many citizens in the ‘land of the free”.
Viewed the situation from the outside, I and many others, can be judgemental of our American cousins. We are actually in danger of being hypocritical, bearing in mind how much money Britain makes by selling weapons around the world.
British arms sales to repressive regimes
According to the Guardian newspaper, British arms sales to repressive regimes soared to 5 billion pounds in just 4 months after the last election. This huge rise is largely due to sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia, but many other countries with controversial human rights records – including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Venezuela and China – have also been major buyers.
According to the Independent newspaper, the UK Government approved arms sales to 20 countries on its own list of human rights abusers.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade says that of the 49 countries that are classed as “not free” by Freedom House, the independent organisation that promotes democracy, 36 have bought British-made weapons under the current government.
Jobs and Economics
According to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade the arms export trade employs 55,000 people, but this is less than 0.2% of the UK workforce and less than 2% of manufacturing jobs. But the threat to jobs is put forward as a strong argument in favour of maintaining this trade.
- Are we campaigning for more unemployment if this trade is reduced?
- Are we prepared to pay the economic cost.
- Is the manufacture and export of weapons more to do with national pride than economics?
- How many women, men and children are killed as a result of our supplying weapons?
- Will future generations liken the abolition of the arms trade to the abolition of the slave trade?
Who is to blame?
It is no use just blaming politicians. In a democracy politicians respond to public pressure and will only take action when they feel that a majority will support them. It is my contention that selling arms around the world corrupts everyone one of us, including you and me. We all are culpable along with repressive regimes that use our weapons to kill their neighbours, or their own citizens, unless we are prepared to speak out against this evil trade in human misery and suffering.
Loving our enemies
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV)
Jesus put his own words into action when he allowed cruel men to nail him to that cross, saying “Father, forgive them”. But that action was the greatest expression of love that the world has ever seen.
Following Jesus today requires drastic changes in our actions and in our attitudes. If someone wants to kill me, or my family, my first thought could be for defence and being prepared to kill to prevent attack. If our country, or our country’s way of life, is threatened we think we need weapons to protect our liberty. But Jesus shows us a better way. It is not an easy thing to make Jesus’ words the basis of international relationships. But the only real hope for ‘World Peace‘ is the way of Jesus.