The Western World first began paying attention to refugees after World War II, when hundreds of thousands of civilians in mainland Europe were displaced after so many cities were bombed, some almost razed to the ground.
Wars, of course, are still waging, and we are conscious that refugees still urgently need places of safety. But we don’t tend to think much about what fuels wars and who might be gaining from them. The global trade in arms is enormous and hugely lucrative. Global military expenditure stands at over $1.6 trillion in annual expenditure and has been rising in recent years. The words of the former US President Eisenhower are stark: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed”. So the cost of wars is not just in those directly affected but has global repercussions.
Ireland too plays its – admittedly small – part in this ever growing arms trade. We don’t make full weapons systems, but we do make parts of them. Has it ever occurred to us that while the Irish Government gives our refugees and asylum seekers the minimum of support through “direct provision”, some of them or their loved ones, may well have been wounded or killed by weapons made with Irish help?
Christians are coming to the end of an annual 6 week season of prayer and conversion called “Lent”. Its purpose is to prepare us spiritually to celebrate the great feast of Transformation that is Easter. We are urged to “turn away from sin and believe the Good News”. Its message is that all people are loved and cherished by God, and that all life is sacred . The global arms trade illustrates so well the web of compromises we are, mostly unknowingly, involved in. Manufacturing, after all, means jobs; exports mean income, both so badly needed. But we need to reflect deeply on the values we wish to live by. Life-affirming or life-denying?
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. (Prayer of St Francis)