The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury was a Canon at Coventry Cathedral working in the International Reconciliation Ministry (IRM).

Recently he was interviewed by the Reverend Canon Sarah Hills, Canon for Reconciliation, on his experience.

"’ll pick one from Burundi because it illustrates something. I was in Burundi in Bujumbura just around or just after the end of the civil war but it was still very, very tense with lots of fighting still going on up in the hills.

“It was still on the Foreign Office`s list of the places that you must never on any circumstances go and I was facilitating a three day conference of rebel and government military and politic leaders on reconciliation and we worked away in our groups.

“It was very hard work and utterly demanding. On the third day, a man in one part of the room pointed across the room and pointed to a man and said ‘In the war he lead a militia that killed 30,000 people. How can I be reconciled to him?’

“He was a very senior officer and I remember looking out of the window across Lake Tetanize while trying to think of what to say and pointing out to the lake and I said to him ‘If you go out in a boat on the lake and you fall out of the boat what do you do?’ He replied ‘Well I swim’, so I said ‘If you don’t swim what happens?’ And he said ‘Well I drown’, and I said ‘Well if you don’t reconcile you will slaughter each other’; I said that to illustrate, because they wanted me to give a sort of solution to reconciliation, that the whole point is that reconciliation is done by the people in conflict.

“What we do in Coventry or anywhere else, what we try and do here is to make it easier for people to find their own way to reconciliation.”