NEW YORK – A press briefing at the United Nations on Tuesday, July 3 is set to address the growing problem of unregulated arms being traded in impoverished areas of the world where weapons fall into the wrong hands, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives each year.
Diplomats, along with several evangelical leaders, from more than 100 countries around the world will discuss this week new legally-binding global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) agreements that will establish an international understanding of how to transfer conventional arms and ammunition.
The conflict is raging throughout countries like Syria, South Sudan, and the Congo, where mass amounts of weapons are being illegally traded and falling into the hands of people who have the motivation to cause serious human rights violations and decimate entire communities.
"While the United States and a few other countries have tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all. Only 52 of the world's 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers, and less than half of these have criminal or monetary penalties associated with illegal brokering," reads a statement by a group of prominent Christian leaders, all with firsthand experience of the atrocities made possible by illegal arms transfers.
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, shared in a phone interview with The Christian Post ahead of Tuesday's press briefing that there needs to be much greater awareness about the impact on the loose control of arms and the suffering it causes around the world.
"I think it is a very critical issue. I think about the global constituency as a very significant and important issue to be dealt with. I was just in South Sudan, where the global trade of arms is having a great impact on many people's lives. I think that issues in Sri Lanka or Uganda, weapons are given to little children, which should be a cause of concern for all Christians," explained Dr. Tunnicliffe, who has spent many years traveling and mentoring WEA leaders at global conferences.
"In South Sudan, we held a peace conference for five warring tribes, where close to 4,000 people have died in the last year in that region. And again, it's the access to the weapons that has been one of the reasons for such a loss in life. I go back to Nigeria where there is conflict on a regular basis, sometimes by burning churches by people with weapons and small arms. The situation in Uganda and Sri Lanka with child soldiers is (indicative) of the incredible atrocities being perpetrated there," he continued.
Dr. Tunnicliffe added that there has to be a guarantee that if arms are being transferred to a certain place, that they will not fall into the hands of people bent on committing violent acts.
"There is also a need for transparency by monitoring what weapons come into the country, how they are distributed, so there are several things that can be negotiated with the treaty. The fact that there is no current global treaty is of itself a concern," he added.
Speaking from a biblical perspective, he said that it is important to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, such as children being forced to become soldiers.
"It's about what God requires from us – to love justice and show mercy. Obviously in an ideal world, no weapons will be needed. But the fact is that due to injustice, there are children forced to become child soldiers. I think that demonstrating biblical justice is the foundation for this kind of engagement. I think all throughout Scripture there are principles of how we engage in such topics."
Galen Carey, the Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals, highlighted that the negotiations will be based on the broader international community and have nothing to do with the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment laws about the right to bear arms.
"Starting today, there are four weeks of negotiations where they (diplomats) basically have to agree on the whole treaty. So the U.S. has been involved, but this is not the U.S. trying to impose its ideas on others. This is a global movement trying to control the international field,"he told CP.
"The main target is to have a treaty that will regulate the international sale, export and import of weapons and ammunition, so that weapons do not fall into the wrong hands," added Carey, a former longtime employee of World Relief who served as a missionary oversees before becoming a representative for the NAE before Congress, the White House and the Courts.
"The U.S. already has its own national regulations on weapons exports – they are some of the best laws in the world. Many countries do not have any regulations at all. The goal of the international treaty is to raise the whole international standard so that all countries can be held accountable, and so the threat of weapons falling in the wrong hands can be greatly reduced," he said.
"Nobody is saying that weapon sales are not legitimate – countries need to be able to defend themselves, and some do that by buying weapons from other countries. So that's legitimate. The illegitimate thing is when terrorists and gangs get such weapons, which they then use to commit human rights abuses – terrorizing civilians, pillaging, raping – all those things that happen."