AFRICA: Religious leaders call for strong arms trade treaty

March 29, 2010

African religious leaders meeting in the Rwandan capital of Kigali have called on their governments to support calls for a strong and comprehensive treaty against arms trading so that funds can be redirected into development.

After their March 23-25 meeting, Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders said such an agreement would reduce the human cost associated with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and control illegal dealing.

"When you manufacture guns, you have to find a market. When you find a market, you cause trouble, you cause conflict, so it becomes an endless cycle. We shall never stop it until we say enough is enough of killing ourselves," Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda told Ecumenical News International in Kigali on March 24. " But now that has to stop, so that we can build a peaceful Africa."

The leaders from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo were attending an African Council of Religious Leaders Religions for Peace meeting. The gathering's theme was, "Advancing shared security: strengthening multi-religious collaboration for peace building, reconciliation and sustainable development."

At the opening of the meeting, the religious leaders launched the ArmsDown! campaign in Africa, which calls on religious young people to work together towards a safer world.

The World Conference on Religions for Peace, which is a multi-religious coalition, is steering the ArmsDown! campaign. It calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, as well as the stopping of the proliferation and misuse of conventional weapons, such as small arms, landmines and cluster bombs. The campaign also urges the reduction of military expenditure, and the advancement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"We are trying to help our young people to stop violence. They are citizens of today, not tomorrow, so we have to begin right now," said Kolini. He urged African youth to stop being used by groups seeking to make money through the illegal arms trade.

Sheikh Shaban Mubaje, the Grand Mufti of Uganda, said the ArmsDown! initiative is crucial for the Great Lakes regions, where the faiths are promoting shared security, and setting the agenda for the end of conflict plus sustainable development.

"We welcome new initiatives for a reduction of expenditure on arms, which currently stands at US$1.34 trillion each year," said the sheik. "Rather, redirect these funds to the attainment of the MDGs."

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