Demonstrating against the arms trade

Eurosatory, the biennale of the biggest arms trade fair in the world, took place in Paris from 11-15 June 2018. This year the organisers, Stop Fuelling War, managed to be part of an event in central Paris which gathered people from all over Europe in a peaceful and fun-filled event in the days leading up to the start of the arms trade fair. Unfortunately, this Quaker was not looking where she was going and took a nasty fall the day beforehand which meant a period of recuperation during this musical and fun-filled event which had opportunities for interaction and reflection, where folk were invited to vote on military budgets. The efforts to raise awareness in the French public, of the enormous economy generated by an industry whose end product is death, was well received. Many people in France are completely unaware of the size of their military budget each year.

Our hosts, Jenny Haughton and Brian Maguire, were, as always, generous in their hospitality and Jenny joined Helen Fanning from Churchtown Meeting, myself and my grandson, Callum Wrixon from Limerick, in attending the peaceful Quaker vigil against the arms trade. Jenny managed to go inside the Eurosatory buildings where she had some interesting conversations with standholders who were working for the companies represented at the arms trade fair. She brought out a catalogue, which one Young Friend, on seeing it at IYM in Limerick, described as being “bigger than an Argos catalogue”. I was delighted to see old and new faces at the vigil, and indeed some Irish “non-Friends” who had been inspired to travel to witness for peace having heard about it for the first time during a talk in Limerick last year.

On the first day, we were joined by another activist group, who unfortunately were more aggressive in their approach, which swiftly drew security and police personnel. Holly Spencer from the Stop Fuelling War group, skilfully negotiated a time-sharing compromise and we were able to attend separately each day. In fact, many of the thousands attending stopped to talk and tell us of how the more aggressive approach tended to “close down any chance of dialogue” and that our quiet, yet persistent, presence and our willingness to listen, created a space where conversations were able to take place. It felt affirming to hear this kind of feedback and also to even hear friendly suggestions from those who were engaged in the arms trade. One man suggested that more information about alternatives in  of peacebuilding  should be included in the literature and it certainly set me thinking that so many wonderful projects, supporting peace, remain unseen and unknown, a bit like the arms trade itself.

Joining in worship, with all those who had travelled, at Maison Quaker settled our souls for the days ahead and a workshop on The Arms Trade and The Alternatives was held, which  was a practical preparation and information-filled event.

I recommend a visit to the Stop Fuelling War website and Facebook page to see some lists of peace-building projects there.  QCEA have published a wonderful book in February 2018, which they hope to send to our Irish politicians, called Building Peace Together: a practical resource. it can be ordered from QCEA in Brussels >>

Friends at Eurosatory vigil, Paris, June 2018 – Helen Fanning Dublin; Julia Ryberg, Stockholm; Karen King, Brussels; and an unnamed Friend from Britain Yearly Meeting.

Wishing you all peace in your days.

– Pauline Goggin, Limerick. Western Region Monthly Meeting