In my town of Bendigo, the Easter Monday parade is rapidly approaching. For those unfamiliar with this event, a Chinese dragon wends its noisy & colourful way through the streets of Bendigo.

Last year, I went along with friends to see the parade for the first time. It’s a great event, with lots of community groups, companies and schools providing floats for the parade. We’d also been involved in manning a prayer labyrinth in the centre of town, so although the festival doesn’t recognise Easter much, I felt we had tried to inject some reality.

The dragon was a huge hit, supplying colour and vibrancy as a rousing finale to the weekend-long festival. Or so I thought. In a bizarre rearguard action, Bushmaster armoured cars and other military vehicles rolled slowly past the crowd. In front of them strolled soldiers (I assume) in camouflage and blackened faces, distributing recruitment fliers to anyone over 18.

A more violent distortion of the truth of Easter I cannot imagine.

Easter is the time of celebrating Jesus’ victory over death, not by using death’s means (violence) but by nonviolent suffering. His resurrection vindicated his life and his mission – that his healings, exorcisms and teaching all anticipated – the loving reign of God over all Creation.

With global company Thales manufacturing Bushmasters and protective military clothing in Bendigo, it’s no wonder there was an overbearing military presence at the parade. Thales, for those who care to know, is a conglomerate of companies with headquarters in France. This from their website:

With operations in 50 countries and 68,000 employees, Thales is a world leader in Mission-critical information systems for the Aerospace, Defence and Security markets. Building on proven capabilities in large and complex software systems, Thales steps up to the security challenges of its customers in an increasingly interconnected, technology-driven world…Leveraging a global presence and spanning the entire value chain, from prime contracting to equipment, Thales plays a pivotal role in making the world a safer place.

Simply put, they profit from war.

In February, Thales launched their Bendigo manufacturing plant on a new trajectory with the Defence Materials Technology Centre – in plain language, soldiers can now be modern knights-in-armour.

Federal Member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons, is a passionate (some may say passionately ardent) about Thales. He regularly spruiks for Thales in the halls and power, and hails the employment benefits it provides. Many Bendigonians would mutely echo his trumpetings. Who would argue against jobs, any jobs, in regional Victoria? Well, to be blunt, Thales and Federal Labor. Is Thales is really that committed to Bendigo?After all, it’s not an Australian company, and took over the previous manufacturer (ADI) which was Australian. In December 2008 it slashed 10% of the Bendigo workforce. And on the Federal Labor side, it was discovered in early 2009 that were spending $40 million to  research & develop a lighter Bushmaster vehicle….great! In the US…not so great. The Opposition then put a motion to give Thales equal funding for the same purpose. In a development that must have Member Gibbons gnashing his teeth and pulling chunks of chair from his nostrils, he had to vote against this motion. Bob Baldwin, who put the motion, spoke for many and with some sting:

“Given all the past rhetoric by Steve Gibbons…on the Bushmaster project, I would have thought he would have supported the call for work in this area, supported funding for protection of 350 jobs.” (ABC)

But not to fear, Thales, though missing out on this peanuts, may many more millions from the actual manufacture of these ‘baby Bushmasters’. Whether they reinstate those sacked workers, who knows? After all, as a disappointed worker said of the redundancies, “It’s typical of what they do.”

Which leads us to the question? Are we really happy to have Thales in our town? Do we rest well at night knowing that Thales is making millions globally from the misery of war? And is it at all appropriate to showcase a weapon of war at an event celebrating Easter? Which is, after all the bunnies and chocolate, a celebration of Jesus who came do something that was dreamed about in his nation long before:

He’ll settle things fairly between nations.
He’ll make things right between many peoples. They’ll turn their swords into shovels,
their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation;
they won’t play war anymore. (Book of Isaiah, The Message version)