On the eve of a knife-edge UK parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal, and a crucial time for all of the EU in the whole debate, we hear from two of our recent reconciliation interns from Germany – the country with the most partner organisations in the CCN – both of whom had transformational placements in Coventry, about the impact of their experience of the cross-border partnership and learning enabled through both the CCN network and mutual EU partnership.
Both of us – Felicitas Weileder and Maite Böhm – have been interns at Coventry Cathedral with Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP). We recently met to reflect on our time in Coventry and how it impacted our lives, and how the current uncertainty around Brexit leaves us feeling. We want to share a few of our thoughts with you. Felicitas was an intern in 2011/12 during the Golden Jubilee and the two big international gatherings 2012. Maite finished her internship just recently. During her year from 2017 to 2018, she also organised two big gatherings.
Felicitas : I grew up in a small town in southern Germany, which had not fully reappraised its history, and where remembrance events where mostly organised and visited by older people. A few friends and I, seeking to change this, founded a youth group for the remembrance of the cruelty of National Socialism. Through this volunteer work, I knew the work of ARSP and it was only the next logical step for me to become an intern with them. As a believing Catholic and based on my experience with our youth group, I was really happy that I had the opportunity to work in Coventry.
Coventry, the Cathedral and its people had a tremendous impact on my life. I gained a deep knowledge of reconciliation and the impact of war and violence; hence, after returning to Germany, my studies focused mostly on development, good governance, and conflict prevention. I work and have worked on those topics in previous professional experiences and also at my current job, and I returned to the UK in 2018 to study for a year in London.
I was deeply moved by the hospitality and friendship of British people, and am still in touch with various British and American friends. I really hope that the friendship between our two countries will continue after Brexit. I met wonderful people of the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry, whose individual stories, and stories of their churches or organisations, have often inspired me. Thus, I decided to volunteer for the German board of the Community of the Cross of Nails in Germany, and Maite and I hope to develop programs to interest especially the young generation in our vital work for reconciliation and peace during the next four years.
Maite: The first time I visited Coventry and its cathedral was at the age of fifteen on a pilgrimage where I was deeply moved by Coventry’s story and wanted to get involved. Therefore I started volunteering for CCN work at my church, especially trying to get other young people involved. I had also heard about the internship at the Reconciliation Ministry and therefore decided to become an intern with ARSP after finishing school.
Spending this one year abroad working for Coventry Cathedral and learning about reconciliation and peace work had a huge impact on my life and was a great experience that I will always remember fondly. Not only did I get to support the Cathedral in its ministry but I also got to meet a lot of incredible people who became a big part of my life. Not only was I welcomed very warmly but I also found a small second family in my fellow interns and a second home in Coventry. Brexit is therefore affecting me on a very emotional level, and I so hope that the friendships between my friends and me will last through this awful time.
The CCN with its partners from all over the world is such a good example for international relationships, and how individuals can make a difference – its first partnership being the one between Coventry and Kiel, whose roots started to grow even during war time. I welcome being a new member of the German CCN board and working together with Felicitas on reaching out to younger people and getting them involved in peace and reconciliation work.