Introductory Note from Kamran Mofid
The path of my inspiring and enriching friendship with my dear friend Paul Oestreicher, a disciple of universal compassion and an inspirational peacemaker
It all began in Coventry
Canon Paul Oestreicher, a residentiary canon of Coventry Cathedral and director of the Cathedral's Centre for International Reconciliation (1985-1997); a member of the General Synod of the Church of England from 1970-81 and 1995-97. He joined Amnesty International at its inception in 1961 and was Chair of AI UK from 1975-1979; Vice President, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND); and a lifetime worker for peace and social Justice.
As I have noted elsewhere in My Coventry Story, in 1986 I was awarded my PhD in Economics and soon after I was appointed- full time- senior lecturer at the Department of Economics at Coventry Polytechnic (now University).
Soon after my appointment, a dear friend of mine from New Zealand, Prof. Kevin Clements, visited me at Coventry. It was he who introduced me to Paul.
Paul and I became very good friends. I shared many wonderful and enriching times with him at his office at the cathedral, listening to his stories, learning from his wisdom and insight. A truly wonderful man. We also had many wonderful times, sharing food and drinks at our respective homes, alongside our families.
Paul introduced me to senior figures at the cathedral, including Bishop Barringtomn Ward and Provost John Petty and many others. He also introduced me to many senior people at Coventry City Council, including the Lord Mayor, Councillor Joseph Clifford.
Paul and I also organised a few national and international conferences, mainly on the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation and gave joint lectures and presentations. Paul was also instrumental for me to receive a personal invitation from Sir Richard Branson to accompany the Coventry delegation to Hiroshima for the unveiling of the Statute of Reconciliation at Hiroshima Peace Museum. A replica of this statue was unveiled earlier at the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, in a ceremony which I was honoured to attend also. I am also grateful for his inspiration, support, advice and input, enabling me to instigate and co-found the Centre for the Study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Coventry University.
The Disintegration of this Disunited Kingdom
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
(This article was initially submitted to the Editor of the Church Times for possible publication on Friday 19 July 2019. However, Canon Oestreicher has agreed for it to be published here today.)
Reading your General Synod report (last week's CT) leaves me close to despair. While England is in a state of social, political and moral disintegration, crying out for healing and reconciliation, our still would-be National Church seems very largely occupied with its own affairs and its own guilt. Oblivious to the mortal dangers, we are busy doing repairs on our leaky vessel, as Britain runs on to the rocks, come Halloween.
Allow me an interpolation from the year of my birth in a small middle class German town in 1931. I know, history never quite repeats itself, but the analogies are frightening. The mainly middle class citizenry felt insecure, disillusioned with self-seeking party politicians at war with each other and drawn towards a charismatic power hungry unconventional leader, promising them whatever they wanted to hear.
In my region, his Brown Shirts were easily elected (think the Brexit Party) by those on right and left and by most churchgoers (the promised new order, a God-send), just as I was born. Two years later, Hitler took absolute power. Dissenters were traitors, (think Daily Mail). Who was to blame for all that was wrong? The Jews of course, bankers or communists, (think immigrants or Islam or Brussels).
Brexit is not, as - with some exceptions - our hierarchy leave us free to think, a matter of personal opinion but a national tragedy. Brazen lies have traduced a (small) majority of citizens into seeking a divorce from the admittedly imperfect peace project that is the European Union. To leave, should from the start have been recognised as an economic, social, political and not least spiritual disaster. See the rise in hate crimes.'Great Britain First' (read England, read Trump) is a surrender of the values we have claimed to cherish, an open and welcoming society, tolerant of difference, committed to human rights, protecting minorities and cherishing the natural environment that sustains us.
To turn our backs on Europe's soul, is to abandon a great part of our own heritage, for everything that is good and bad about Europe is good and bad about us. The self-centred cliques that are in the process of wrecking both of the political parties that have been the mainstay of British tradition, is a calamity for which others cannot be blamed. This coming weekend, concerned citizens, alas without a recognisable church component, will demonstrate against the imposition of an untrustworthy Prime Minister. The German churches failed to warn in time. Could not the small minority that the Church of England now is, still help to turn the tide?
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
Europe, Britain, Wars, Destruction, Forgiveness & Reconciliation, Peace, EU, Cooperation, Hope, Meaning & Purpose: Timeless Lessons from Coventry
The statue of reconciliation in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. I was honoured and proud to be present at the unveiling ceremony of the statue in Coventry in 1995 and later on at Hiroshima Peace Garden where a replica was unveiled. Photo: Anne Mofid
Thank you Coventry for being a Beacon of Hope to the World