08 Mar A Peace-building Conference at the Ricoh Arena
Written by Diakite, Ava, Lola and Eve – Year 7 student reporters
On Saturday 24th February 2018, six eager Whitley Academy students went to the Coventry Ricoh Arena, to watch and take part in the Peace-building Conference run by the Great Britain & Ireland Rotary Club. We were very excited to learn about the day.
At 9:30am, as soon as we sat down, the Lord Mayor of Coventry (Councillor Tony Skipper) made an introduction that interested many minds. He talked about Coventry as a City of Peace and Reconciliation, and most recently, UK City of Culture 2021. Secondly, Mr Ian Riseley, the Rotary International President 2017/18, who came all the way from Victoria Australia, spoke about the ‘rotarians’ present in the room. We felt privileged and humble to be in the room full of ‘rotarians’, who have helped the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eradicate polio globally.
Then Reverend Sarah Hills made us aware of the religious side of wars and conflicts. She talked about her trip to Iraq, with people from the Community of the Cross of Nails, in Easter 2017. It was a very risky journey, but moving and inspiring, as the Muslim soldiers helped the group light up the small candles to form a cross on the floor of a church damaged by bombs.
Mark Krawczynski, President of the Warsaw Rotarian Club, took us back to the years Warsaw and Poland were rebuilt after the Second World War. We were astonished to realise Poland’s long history of conflict, especially in the 1980s, when it changed from a communist Poland, to the Poland of today. He also talked about the importance of changing mindsets with a positive vision, for example, the ‘rotarians’ have demonstrated how to build peace together without bloodshed.
After that momentous speech, Professor Joe Valadez made a speech about health care in conflict areas in the world. He talked about the child mortality rate in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa (which was 100 out of 1000 births).
Magnus Riley (a Rotarian Youth Speaks Winner) was talking about ‘’lad culture’’ and how suicide is the most common death for young boys due to this.
Later that afternoon, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr Shirin Ebadi, talked to us (whilst her words were translated) about her life in Iran, and her job as a lawyer. Her story was very heart-warming because she was arrested due to defending a boy’s (who has been shot by the police) family. During her time in jail, she stayed positive and did not feel any need to hate anyone despite her conditions.
Dr Shirin Ebadi also came to see us in a session called ‘PeaceJam’. She allowed us to ask her questions whether they were personal, political or controversial.
When we went to the hall, Dr Ranieri Guerra was talking about polio disease and how 99% of the world has been eradicated of polio for good. This made us remember the conversation from Dr Natalia Gutierrez earlier in the day.
At the end of the day, Director Brian Stoyel said his farewells and asked if we enjoyed this momentous occasion [which of course we did] and we left the Ricoh Arena. We left with the resonance of a poem read out by the Revd Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral:
“Yesterday, yesterday, yesterday
Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow
Today, today, today
Hope, hope, hope
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow
Love, love, love.’’
We also completely agreed with the thoughts shared by a Head Teacher from an academy in Scotland: “Peace within yourself is of the upmost importance. It’s your mental well-being”.
Thank you for reading this blog we hope it was very informative and also hope you enjoyed this as much as we did.