COVENTRY STATEMENT ON SYRIA AND IRAQ
THE LORD MAYOR OF COVENTRY, Cllr Lindsley Harvard
THE BISHOP OF COVENTRY, the Right Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth
THE DEAN OF COVENTRY CATHEDRAL, the Very Revd John Witcombe
THE CHAIR OF COVENTRY MUSLIM FORUM, Dr Abdullah Shehu
As the City of Coventry approaches the 76th Anniversary of its worst night of bombing during the Second World War – a night that left hundreds dead and injured and countless buildings damaged or destroyed, including our magnificent medieval Cathedral – our hearts and minds are focused less on our past travails and more on the present suffering of the people of Syria, Iraq and other areas of the Middle East including Yemen.
We know that behind each statistic of death and destruction there are women and men, children and the elderly, family homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, places of worship and the whole fabric of human life torn apart. The tragedy of the civil war in Syria, and the havoc it is wreaking in the region and the world with its untold misery, is beyond description.
We know the causes of the conflict are complex and that bringing the bloodshed to an end is fraught with difficulty but, from a city that once suffered the cruelty of war and chose to become a city of peace, reconciliation and sanctuary, we dare to speak a word to the leaders of the world, the people of our own and other once bombed cities of this land, and to the people of Syria and Iraq.
To the leaders of the nations and groups that are caught up in whatever way in the violence of Syria and Iraq, we plead with you to find ways to resolve your different narratives on how to solve the crisis and, with the greatest urgency, to make to peace happen before more people’s lives are wasted in death, especially the children’s.
We call on you, as you work for that peace, to ensure – especially in Aleppo, West and East, and in the Mosul area – that access to humanitarian aid is secured and the injured treated with mercy, that where military force is used, it is used only in proportionate ways with weaponry that does not contravene international law, that minorities are protected and reprisals against the innocent are forbidden and that refugees are given safe haven in the area, region or in your own lands including the UK.
We acknowledge that peace has come to parts of Syria and much of Iraq but we implore you to find ways to end the carnage that continues. And when it is all finally over, we urge you to rebuild these ancient lands and restore their once proud peoples to prosperity and lasting peace forged through reconciliation.
To our own and other cities in this country that once suffered the devastation of war we say, let us use the forthcoming Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday commemorations to stand with the people of Syria and Iraq in a solidarity of suffering. If you pray, then pray with all your heart. If you sing songs of lament, let them fill the air. If your places of worship or public buildings have bells, then let them peal for peace.
To the people of Syria and Iraq we say that our hearts are breaking for you. There is little consolation we can offer but we can share something of our story that out of the travails of our suffering, hope rose again from the ashes of our city’s despair and we walked the long road to reconstruction and reconciliation. We count it an honour that our city has received many refugees from the region, especially from Syria itself. Their dignity is a tribute to the nobility of your peoples and gives us hope that peace will eventually prevail. We pray for you.