Three Catholic peace groups have urged President Ma Ying-jeou to cancel the government's weapon purchasing program and disarm. Their call comes ahead of a July 2 - 27 UN Conference on the arms trade. Since Ma took office in 2008, Taiwan has agreed to buy US$18.3 billion worth of weapons from the United States, the groups said. Ma began a second four-year term in May. “We should remember the lessons of war. It never brings peace but brings hurt, pain, and sacrifice to the lives of millions of innocent people,” the groups said in an open letter this month. “Why not become a leader who invests technology, human resources, and money into helping poor countries?” they asked, adding that they hope Ma could become a "peacemaker." The open letter is the first peace initiative made by Pax Christi International together with the Justice and Peace desks of Caritas Taiwan and the Religious Major Association of Taiwan, said Father Willy Ollevier, the convenor of the Justice and Peace desk of Major Superiors in Taiwan. The local Catholic Church plans to invite other religions to participate in a joint action to call for disarmament, said Fr Ollevier. The president's office responded by letter, thanking the groups for their advice and promising to take it under consideration, Fr Ollevier said. Taiwan's US$6 billion arms deal in 2008 was the first arms purchase from the US in 15 years, adversely affecting US-China diplomatic relations. A second US$6 billion deal was struck in 2010, while a third was signed in September last year.
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