Coventry is the UK's only City of Peace and Reconciliation... but what does it mean? #RISING19
Coventry's title of 'City of Peace and Reconciliation' is steeped in history but is increasingly relevant for our work in the 21st century.
During the Second World War, like much of Europe, Coventry suffered from heavy bombing. On the 14th November 1940, Coventry was victim to such a horrendous bombardment that much of the City was ruined, including crucial elements of the Cathedral.
However, the following day Provost Howard of Coventry Cathedral wrote a message of peace on a remaining section of wall: "Father Forgive them", calling for forgiveness in the face of violence and loss. Six weeks later, on Christmas Day, to a national BBC audience, he appealed once more for peace and reconciliation.
Finally, Howard reached out to the town of Kiel, which had also suffered heavy losses during the war. He used the tragedy of bombings to focus on peace and progression, rather than vengeance and aggression; earning Coventry the title of "City of Peace and Reconciliation".
Peace and reconciliation are no less important for Coventry today than they were 79 years ago.
The Lord Mayor's Peace Committee has annual events, such as the Lord Mayor's Peace Lecture, which this year is being delivered at RISING by Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, CBE, PC. It also plays a dynamic role in the City's Peace Festival, offering events which are open to the public, raising awareness of peace work in an increasingly turbulent world.
The Peace Committee also presents The Coventry International Prize for Peace and Reconciliation (Coventry Peace Prize). It honours initiatives, organisations, individuals or projects that have made an exemplary contribution towards working for peace and reconciliation or for social and environmental well-being.
The Prize is decided on and awarded in partnership between the City Council, the Lord Mayor, the Bishop for Coventry, the Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, and the Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University. Each partner nominates candidates and those who are shortlisted are judged on the impact of their work as an inspiration and model for other initiatives. Specifically, they will have made demonstrable and practical improvements to the well-being of communities, especially in conflict or post-conflict situations.
Previous winners include:
· Therese Mema Mapenzi, in 2014, for her work supporting rape victims in South Kivu, providing listening centres as a safe space to tell their stories and receive support.
· Professor David Ford, in 2012, for his work encouraging interfaith dialogue in global peace building.
· The Birmingham based charity ‘Responding to Conflict’, in 2011, set up in 1991 to help those living in places of conflict.
RISING works to raise the profile of Coventry as a City of Peace and Reconciliation using our Global Peace Forum.
Internationally we are know for our reputation as a City of Peace, as shown by the opening statement of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at RISING 18.
By bringing speakers together from across the world, RISING hopes to continue building on Coventry's legacy.