LEICESTER, United Kingdom – An English bishop has given his support to protesters at one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

The Defense & Security Equipment International 2019 (DSEI) is taking place Sept. 10-13 in London, and hundreds of people have tried to block access to the site.

Bishop Declan Lang, the Chair of the Department for International Affairs at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, on Thursday offered his “prayers and best wishes” to Catholic activists who are “peacefully campaigning against the indiscriminate sale of arms.”

The DSEI arms fair takes place every two years, and critics point to the number of participants invited from countries with poor human rights records, including Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The fair will have displays of all sorts of combat equipment, from small arms to tanks to warships.

On Tuesday, over 30 people attended a “Quaker prayer meeting” taking place on the road leading to the ExCeL Centre, where the event is taking place. The demonstration was part of the No Faith in War protest, which brought together members of different religious groups, including Pax Christi, the Catholic peace organization.

“Together we managed to keep the access road closed all day and prevent trucks bringing in the weapons ready for display and sale next week. We gave a powerful witness that another world is possible in which there is peace built on justice, care for creation, respect and dignity for all,” Pax Christi said in a statement.

On Thursday, Lang pointed to the words of Pope Francis, who said that it is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace while promoting or allowing the arms trade.

“Likewise, it is a contradiction for our government to speak of promoting human rights while inviting authoritarian regimes to the UK for one of the world’s largest arms fairs,” the bishop said.

“As a nation, we claim to support refugees and oppose persecution, while simultaneously selling weapons to those responsible for killing innocent civilians and driving families from their homes,” Lang continued. “The government has a moral duty to observe and strengthen its arms control regulations and international obligations, rather than arming the same regimes that it vocally criticizes for human rights abuses.”

The United Kingdom is the 6th largest arms exporter in the world, according to a March report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), and primarily sells aircraft, naval vessels and missile systems.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.