NEW YORK – Christian leaders from several organizations gathered in New York on March 27 for a prayer service over the Arms Trade Treaty currently being reviewed by world leaders at the U.N.
"One of the goals here is to reduce the trafficking of these weapons, which has often resulted in Muslim terrorist groups having tremendous amounts of weapons to bring down or to weaken Christian nations in Africa and other places. This is a small effort, because it is hard to enforce these things – it's really more spiritual warfare than having something on paper," said Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School, speaking with The Christian Post at the event.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is an attempt to create restrictions and enforce laws aimed at tackling the widespread illegal distributions of weapons and ammunitions in underdeveloped nations where crime is high, and children are often taken as soldiers by local armies.
The prayer event, sponsored by notable organizations such as The National Association of Evangelicals, The National Latino Evangelical Coalition, The New York Divinity School, The Salvation Army International Justice Commission and the World Evangelical Alliance, reminded attendees that currently there are more laws governing the international sale of bananas and iPods than grenade launchers and AK-47s.
"The nations are reviewing the final text of the treaty, and we'll see how they respond tomorrow. According to the terms of the conference, the treaty must be agreed to by consensus. If any country objects, the treaty can not be adopted. However, the majority can then bring the treaty to the General Assembly, where it could be adapted by a majority vote," Galen Carey, Vice-president at the National Association of Evangelicals told CP at the service.
The event featured prayers for world leaders, for the media, for victims of violence and for relief workers and missionaries, while speakers read from the books of Matthew, Proverbs, Isaiah, James, Romans, and Psalms.
"We pray that God will guide the decision process so that a strong treaty is adopted that will contribute to peace and safety for all people, and especially for those who live in the most violent corners of the globe," a leaflet for the prayer event reads.
The presentation included a speech from Bishop Elias Taban, President of the South Sudan Evangelical Alliance, who spoke with CP last year about his experience as a child soldier, surviving great hardships in the war-torn African nation.
"I call it an answer to prayer when we are able to get the world together to talk about small arms and ammunitions control. Because I think that small arms and ammunitions have done more damage and more lives have gone than the threat of nuclear power that we are so much concerned about," Bishop Taban said over the phone.
CP contributor, Dr Paul De Vries, added about the Bishop:
"As a young man, as a 10 year old, he was already a soldier – killing other people, because of this terrible violence in some of the countries in the world. A man who is a devout evangelical Christian, pleading for others to reduce the violence as much as possible. It's part of the Lord's prayer – 'thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,' - let's at least reduce violence and work for peace, because God is the king of peace."
Some conservatives and the National Rifle Association have opposed the Arms Trade Treaty, expressing concerns that it is going to trample on Americans' 2nd Amendment rights.
In July, Carey wrote an article for CP that argued that such fears are unfounded. The report explained why the ATT will focus on countries where the illegal trade of weapons and ammunition is very high, and will not infringe on 2nd Amendment rights for Americans.
At the prayer service, Carey repeated that citizens need not be concerned about negative consequences from the ATT.
"There are people who are concerned about the 2nd Amendment rights, but the treaty says that there is no regulation of domestic weapons or gun ownership or sales and so we believe that those who have those concerns need not worry. Our second amendment rights will in no way be compromised," Carey said.
In his article for CP, he also reminded that the U.S. already has some of the strictest controls on international arms exports, "while maintaining unparalleled protection for the rights of individual citizens to own guns."
As for his expectations from the negotiations, the NAE vice-president said that the treaty will not be perfect, but it still represents a very good opportunity for the U.N. to address a very pressing issue.
"The treaty can make it much more difficult for gangsters, rebel groups or even governments who oppress their own people to purchase weapons on the international market, if these regulations were to go into effect. It would make it harder and more expensive for them to get these weapons, and less weapons means less people will be harmed," Carey explained.
The prayer service concluded with a performance by the Lamb's Church worship team, and called upon Christians everywhere to continue praying for the world's leaders to come to a favorable agreement over the ATT.