Faith leaders: a call for arms trade control (Op-ed)

Published: 3 October 2006

Faith leaders from around the world call on the world’s governments to act urgently to bring the arms trade under control

Sir,

Today, somewhere in the world, a mother will lose her child to armed violence, a young woman will be raped at gunpoint and a family will be forced from their home by conflict. Worldwide, up to 1,000 people are killed every day by gun violence, and many more are maimed or terrorised.

The world is awash with weapons, including an estimated 640 million firearms, or one gun for every ten people on the planet. And all too often, weapons fall into the wrong hands and are used against innocent people.

This is a global horror story, which plays itself out from the favelas of Brazil to conflict in the Middle East and to the killings in Darfur. And the vast majority of the victims are not fighters, but ordinary men, women and children.

There have been international treaties to control the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons for decades. Yet, despite the mounting death toll, there is still no comprehensive treaty governing sales of conventional weapons from handguns to attack helicopters.

This month, the world’s governments have the opportunity to take a vital first step when they vote on an international arms trade treaty at the UN General Assembly in New York. An international arms trade treaty based on governments’ existing commitments under human rights and humanitarian law would have the power to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

The treaty already has the backing of 55 governments, including much of Africa, Latin America and Europe. It also has widespread popular support: one million people in more than 150 countries have signed the Million Faces Petition calling for tougher arms controls.

As faith leaders from many different countries, we call on the world’s governments to act urgently to bring the arms trade under control.

THE MOST REVEREND DESMOND TUTU

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA

BISHOP GUNNAR STAALSETT

Executive Committee, World Conference of Religions for Peace

REVEREND DR OLAV FYKSE TVEIT

Secretary General, Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations

SHEIKH MUSA MUHAMMAD

Chief Imam, Abuja National Mosque

DR HANNY AL-BANNA

President of Islamic Relief

RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN

Director and Counsel
Religious Action Center

SWAMI AGNIVESH

President of the World Council of Arya Samaj, India

FATHER ROBERT F. DRINAN

Professor of Law
Georgetown University, US

JOE VOLK

Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation

MARY ELLEN McNISH

General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

DR MUHAMMAD ABDUL BARI

Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

REVEREND DR WILLIAM OKOYE

Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria

BISHOP WILLIAM KENNEY

Roman Catholic
Auxiliary Bishop of Stockholm