Walking along the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom, the timeless lessons of war — and subsequently peace — permeate through stony rubble. War leaves lasting scars, peace doesn’t come easily, and forgiveness is the cornerstone to rebuilding.
Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by war 76 years ago during the Coventry Blitz. Today the city and local university are working to make the site a place of peace and reconstruction, hosting an international symposium known as the RISING Global Peace Forum. As the word ‘peace’ echoed through the chambers of the cathedral, speakers and guests contemplated the meaning of the word — and their roles in managing it.
So, what does peace mean in an age of humanitarian crisis, cultural barriers for gender and race, and complicated borders? Here are three of the top takeaways about the power of peace and what it takes to achieve it, illustrated by artists from Creative Connection.
Peace and Women
Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi and longtime advocate for the health of mothers, argued that when women have reliable means they can break barriers, and women leaders strongly believe in dialogue before war. As a politician, Banda has seen the unfortunate consequences of war and believes that in times of crisis women and children are impacted the most. Her keynote address connected the issues of peace and gender, a welcome nod to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Peace and Humanity
The City of Coventry has taken in more refugees than any other city in England. Sabir Zazai, the director of the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Center and former refugee, focused on peace during times of humanitarian crisis. “This is not just a refugee crisis. This is also a crisis of compassion.” He argued it wasn’t just about housing refugees, but treating them civilly and providing access to opportunities. “We need to move more people from refugee status to prosperity, not poverty. We need to invest in people.”
Peace and Borders
Today many people are able to cross borders more easily than ever before, and with this freedom comes complications, argued Irish politician Lord John Thomas Alderdice.
The theme of RISING 16 was “ripple effect” and Lord Alderdice noted that not all ripples create positive change. “Do we truly understand our impact?” he said in a candid speech about barriers to peace building. In order to move forward, “we are going to have to find ways of talking to people who are different from us. That includes talking to people we don’t agree with.”
In his final message to the crowd of budding peace builders, Lord Alderdice warned not to expect a “tsunami of progress” after the RISING Global Peace Forum, but instead to look smaller at ways we can help to build peace within our own lives. “What we are trying to build are ripples of hope.”
Take action challenge
- If you’re interested in peace and peace relations, follow RISING Global Peace Forum on Facebook to learn more about the event. Videos from the conference will be available in the coming weeks.
- For more information, you can also watch a video interview with Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives and a United Nations Champion of the Earth, at the RISING Global Peace Forum.Images courtesy of Rising Peace Forum and Creative Connection.