In a monthly prayer video released days after his May 24th encounter with U.S. president Donald Trump, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the trade fueled by “merchants of death,” meaning arms traders who stoke conflicts for profit.
ROME – It’s hypocritical, Pope Francis said, to speak of peace while fueling the arms trade, which only serves the “merchants of death," exacerbating wars not fought to “solve a problem" but to benefit the weapons industry.
“It’s an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time, to promote or allow the arms trade," Francis said in the latest The Pope Video, put together by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
The video was released days after the meeting between Francis and President Donald Trump, during which the pontiff asked the United States’ leader to work for peace. The U.S. produces more than half of the world’s weapons.
The videos, released monthly, were created to promote the pope’s monthly prayer intention. June’s is “the elimination of arms trade," particularly so that the leaders of all nations firmly commit to ending gun trade, which “victimizes so many people."
During the video, which portrays two government officials signing an accord interlaced with images of ongoing conflicts, Francis asks: “Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems, or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in an illegal trade, and so that the merchants of death get rich?"
Although no country is named in the video, a statement released by producers points towards a study from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which found that the commercial arms trade is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War.
According to the study, conflicts in the Middle East, tensions in the South China Sea and the perception of the threat Russia poses to its neighbors are fueling the increase. During 2016 alone, $1.69 trillion has been spent in military forces.
The 10 countries with the highest military spending accounted for nearly 73 percent of the total, and five are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: The United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom. The others are Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, Germany, and South Korea.
The U.S. military’s bill last year rose to $611 billion, almost three times as much as China’s, which was the second highest at $215 billion. America’s military spending is larger than the next 8 biggest military spenders combined, and President Donald Trump has promised to increase the budget even further.
“The Pope’s request this month is forceful," said Jesuit Father Frédéric Fornos, international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and its youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement.
“There are so many dark strategic, industrial, and political interests that result in the death of so many innocent victims around the world," he said. “Do we know which industries in our countries benefit from the arms trade?"
The videos are produced by La Machi, with the support of the Society of Jesus, IndigoMusic, Getty Images Latam and the collaboration of the Vatican Television Center.