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Suspension of twinning relationship with Russian city is tragic, says Bishop of Coventry

01 April 2022

Alamy

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, in south-west Russia

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, in south-west Russia

THE Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has spoken out against the decision by the city to suspend its 80-year twinning relationship with the Russian city of Volgograd, in protest against the invasion of Ukraine.

Coventry City Council voted last week to put the link on hold. “It is with a heavy heart, that at this time we will now pause our twinning links with the City of Volgograd until such a time that they can resume. We also pledge to explore the possibility of twinning with the city of Mariupol when the time is right,” the council stated.

“This Council pledges support to all those communities affected by this war as we will continue to be the City of Peace and Reconciliation, and a City of Sanctuary.”

But Dr Cocksworth said that it was important to to stay in touch with people in Volgograd, to support those protesting against the war, and to ensure that the Russian people knew what was happening in Ukraine.

“The pausing of our twinning relationship with Volgograd is understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic: it’s a sombre reflection of how war tears apart relationships and breaks bonds, and specifically it’s an expression of the anguish springing from the violence and destruction facing Ukrainians daily,” he said.

Everyone in Coventry was “united in grief and outrage” about recent events. “But it’s also my hope that we — especially as Coventrians — would be united in a long-term vision which renounces violence, and which understands the importance of courageous peace-building with former enemies.

“My main concerns throughout this discussion have simply been that Coventry would inhabit its unique post-war mission in the best way possible, to serve the immediate interests of Ukrainians, the truth in Russia, and, as ever, the causes of long-term peace and reconciliation. As a city, I want us to be as courageous as possible in that endeavour.”

The endeavour must persist, he said, whatever the status of the twinning arrangement. “We initiated our link with Stalingrad — as it was then — on the basis of people-to-people relations: in the aftermath of Stalingrad’s devastation by the Nazi war machine, 830 Coventry women paid to sign a tablecloth to fund-raise for the city.

“I hope and pray that we will sustain and rebuild our relationship with Volgograd on a similar basis, but, more crucially, that we will use our position to communicate the bitter truth to Russians of what is being done in the name of their great country, and to keep open the difficult path of reconciliation which lies ahead of us.”

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