24 March 2010

Ban the bomblet - Churches celebrate the Cluster Munitions Act

Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Church leaders have welcomed the passing of the Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Act today in parliament.

The Act ensures that the UK military cannot use cluster munitions, nor can UK military establishments house cluster bombs for other nations. The Churches have been campaigning for this change for the last two years and were pleased to note the all-party support for the Act arising from strong public support for banning these weapons.

"Five years ago this issue was nowhere on the international political scene," said Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union. "We added our voice to the growing call to ban these weapons because our faith reminds us of the importance of every life. This Act enables the UK to ratify the international treaty banning cluster munitions - something that has been called for by thousands of people around the world."

Cluster munitions contain many bomblets, small objects typically the size of a drinks can, which explode spreading shredded metal around the surrounding area. Sometimes bomblets fail to explode, meaning unexploded bombs are left at the scene of conflict.

Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, added: "These weapons are indiscriminate, harming civilians and soldiers alike, and can lay dormant, only to explode years later. It is vital that when a war ends, it truly ends. Unexploded bombs must never maim children after armies have stopped fighting. "

Cluster munitions have been widely used in conflicts around the globe, but on 1 August this year, an international treaty will come into effect, banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, and requiring countries to assist survivors and affected communities.

Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, said: "The moral significance of this bill cannot be overstated. It builds upon widespread recognition of key ethical principles that are enshrined in international humanitarian law. When ensuring our own security we must recognise the importance of adhering to these principles."

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