Catholics in Palmerston North were among the 200 protesters who joined the Peace March on October 31 in opposition to the trade fair for the weapons industry held at the Central Energy Trust Arena.

The protest was organised by Peace Action Manawatu, a grass roots community peace organisation.

A multi-faith gathering of members of the Baha’i, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Quaker traditions kicked off the week-long protest on October 27.

Palmerston North diocese interfaith representative Dr Mary Eastham said the fact that the forum was held in Palmerston North – which was given Peace City status in 1993 – was very distressing, particularly since the trade fair had been effectively banned in Wellington and Auckland.

She noted it was appropriate to protest the arms industry on October 31 and November 1 which was Samhain (Gaelic roots of Halloween) and All Saints Day.

“For centuries, Samhain has been seen as a liminal time when the boundary between this world and the next can more easily be crossed so that the spirits of our loved ones — perhaps those killed by the weapons of war — might visit us and beg us to work for peace,” she said.

Dr Eastham, who spoke at the event, gave participants some insights on peace from the Catholic tradition.

“The God-given peace that our creator desires for us, and to which love simply calls us, is built on justice, where everything and everyone in the created order is in right relationship with each other and can reach their God-given potential,” she said.

“If we ignore the inequality that exists between those who have too much and those who have too little, and the mounting tensions that such polarisation brings, we only pay lip service to the pursuit of peace and God’s law of justice is denigrated,” she added.  “Real peace needs to be worked at, like a life-long relationship.”

The peace events ended with a reading of the newly launched children’s book “Remember the Brave” by Palmerston North prison chaplain Forrest Chambers and his daughter Lena. The book is about the tortures endured by World War I conscientious objectors.

Mr Chambers told NZ Catholic he was concerned about the increasing interest by New Zealand industries in the “arms tech manufacturing”.

He noted an increasing interest from New Zealand technology firms to join the global arms manufacturing industry.

“You might say you are just making a small component which is not a weapon. But that component is sold to a missile making company overseas. That, then, becomes a deadly missile,” he said.

“On the face of it, it looks like New Zealand companies are joining a fairly harmless technology business, which obviously doesn’t kill anybody, but it’s part of the multi-trillion dollar global trade in high-tech weapons,” he added.

Mr Chambers said this is contrary to Catholic social teaching which states that Christians should be agents of peace.

The New Zealand Defence Industry Association said the event was called the “Defence, Industry and National Security Forum” and insisted that it was not a “weapons expo”.