Christian campaigners have disrupted an arms industry-funded event at Church House Westminster just as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is due to speak.
A few minutes ago, they blockaded the main entrance to the building, insisting that a Christian venue should not be hosting the annual Land Warfare Conference.
Senior army officers and arms industry personnel are now clustered around the steps and unable to get through the doorway. It is unclear whether Fallon’s speech, due at 9.00am, will go ahead as planned.
The conference is organised by a pro-military thinktank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and sponsored by arms companies including Airbus Defence and L3.
Along with the small number of Christians blocking the doorway, others are standing by offering support, with banners declaring “Evict the arms dealers”, “Anglicans against arms” and quoting Jesus’ words, “All who take up the sword will die by the sword”.
The Christians blocking the entrance say they have taken nonviolent direct action after five years of attempting to engage with the Church House authorities, who have repeatedly ignored letters, refused to hold meetings and even blocked polite critics on social media.
Christian author Symon Hill is one of those blockading the entrance. Before the protest, he said:
“I am not taking this action lightly. Church House have consistently refused to listen or talk with us, ignored the points we have raised and even given misleading statements to the media. As those with power refuse to listen, we have taken nonviolent direct action, putting our bodies in the way of the evil that is going on at Church House today.”
Eve Waterside, a member of the Church of England living in Oxford, is also taking part. She explained:
“Jesus lived a life of active nonviolence. We are called to follow his example, however fallibly. A leading Christian conference centre is being used to plan large-scale violence, funded by companies that arm some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. I am sad and angry to see the church of which I am part profiting from war and the arms trade.”
Church House claim that Church House Westminster (the conferencing wing of Church House) is a separate business. However, it is a wholly owned subsidiary business of Church House Corporation, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.