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The biblical injunction to beat swords into ploughshares - to disarm - has so far had little effect on humanity in general or on politicians and national leaders, who are after all responsible for building and developing the world's arsenals.

Disarmament, hardly mentioned these days, was high on the political and popular agenda after the two world wars. The statement by the then US President Eisenhower and the popular Ed McCurdy song are just two examples. More important was the outcome of the First Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament in 1978.

A project called ‘Transforming Arms Into Tools’ was founded to collect and break up the weapons, exchanging them for useful items like bicycles, sewing machines, farming tools and building materials. One village collected 500 weapons and received a tractor in return. Among the project’s workers are former child soldiers. One of them explained, ‘Before, I didn’t have a bicycle to go to town and my shop. I didn’t have iron sheets to cover my house. I have been given very useful things, which means I can get on with my life.’ 600,000 small arms have been collected so far, and there are many more to find. Swords into ploughshares indeed. It’s a shame such projects – direct and simple ways to help restore normality in a war-torn region – are so rare.

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