COVENTRY and its cathedral will continue to “offer the world a ray of hope in the midst of division” and move towards peace, the Dean, the Very Revd John Witcombe, has said.
He was commenting on the annual Rising Global Peace Forum, on the theme “Ecosystem of Peace”, which was held over three days in Coventry Cathedral last week.
The Rising Global Peace Forum was established by the cathedral, Coventry University, and Coventry City Council in 2015 to promote peace and conflict resolution. Sister events have been held in Northern Ireland, the United States, Mexico, and Colombia.
Dean Witcombe described it as “a wonderful way of taking Coventry Cathedral’s story of reconciliation and using it to inspire a new generation of peace builders. For us, it is a practical expression of our core purpose: to reconcile the world to God and one another.”
The conference coincided with the anniversary of the 1940 Coventry Blitz, on 14 November, which was marked by a projection on the Cathedral’s walls of a new poem, “Where light falls”.
Dean Witcombe said: “These events confirm the place of Coventry in continuing to offer the world a ray of hope in the midst of division, a hope that we can work together to overcome our differences and create a future of peace.”
The chair of Rising, Professor Mike Hardy, who is the executive director of the Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations at Coventry University, agreed.
“Clearly Coventry has a reputation as the city of peace and reconciliation which is recognised globally, and the aim has always been for Rising to use that to help influence the bringing about of peace in countries across the world,” he said.
“We knew that this would not happen overnight, but there was certainly a feeling this year that Rising’s influence and reach is markedly increasing. Rising is seen as a forum to debate and discuss how peace can be brought about, and the variety of speakers this year — and where they have come from — only serves to prove that.”
The programme included workshops and seminars on “the role of faith and belief in modern society”, and on faith, poverty, and peace. It was attended by more than 300 delegates. Speakers included a former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and a former Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
In a keynote speech, Ms Gillard said that Coventry had “responded with heroism, rebuilt, and turned its focus towards peace”.
Both education and supporting women in leadership were vital to peace promotion, she said, but the current political environment presented challenges to this. “I believe in the power of education and the power of women’s leadership, but, more than anything, I believe in the power of people of good will to come together as you are and make a huge difference in this world.
“If we are to have more women come through for leadership, we need to get to grips with the most deep-seated stereotypes about women leaders. We need a journey of education and to have more civil discourse in our democracies.”