City of Peace and Reconciliation
On the night of 14 November 1940, during the Second World War, the beautiful medieval English city of Coventry fell victim to the most devastating aerial bomb attack in British history, killing hundreds of people, and destroying much of the town as it was known.
The night was one of many bomb attacks on Coventry by the German Luftwaffe Airforce during the Coventry Blitz, but none had been or would ever be as concentrated, long-lasting or as devastating as the events of that night.
However, instead of responding with anger and seeking revenge on the Germans, Coventry famously responded with dialogue, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace, always calling for an end to violent conflict.
Coventry Cathedral was brought to rubble with the decision to rebuild it being made the very morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world.
It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This was a brave and radical act in a dangerous world, leading to the eventual signing of a peace agreement by both nations.
Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall
Another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails by local priest, the Revd Arthur Wales.
The Cross of Nails became the symbol of Coventry’s Ministry of Reconciliation, which was established to provide spiritual and practical support in areas of conflict throughout the world.
As such, Coventry became recognised globally as a City of Peace and Reconciliation, welcoming people of all cultures from all over the world.
The Coventry Cathedral ruins still stand today alongside the city’s beautiful new cathedral, as a lasting symbol of peace and reconciliation, and Coventry’s strength and survival.
Coventry has since formed strong relationships with cities around the world that have also suffered during times of violent conflict, including Belgrade, Dresden, Hiroshima, Sarajevo, Volgograd and Warsaw. With 26 twinned cities, Coventry has the largest network in the world.
The Cathedral’s reconciliation network supports 170 community organisations worldwide, and The Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University provides crucial international insight and advice, helping to inspire hope and strength, to build more peaceful societies without violent conflict.
The city also welcomes many migrants and refugees seeking sanctuary from violent conflict all over the world, making Coventry one of the most ethnic culturally diverse places in the UK.
At home, the city’s many local community organisations work tirelessly to ensure that everybody who lives in Coventry feels welcome, valued, respected and able to live in dignity.
Today, Coventry celebrates its role as a centre of peace and reconciliation every November, with peacebuilding events taking place all over the city, commemorating the events of 1940 and the lives that were lost. The city hosts a highly regarded annual Peace Festival, the Coventry International Prize for Peace and Reconciliation, and also commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day.
As such, we believe there is no better home than Coventry for the RISING Global Peace Forum.