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Rowan Williams leads tributes to pioneer peacemaker

Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, led tributes to the late founder of Christian International Peace Service (CHIPS), Roy Calvocoressi, OBE, at a packed memorial service in London ...

Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, led tributes to the late founder of Christian International Peace Service (CHIPS), Roy Calvocoressi, OBE, at a packed memorial service this week (Monday 11 March) in St Martin-In-The-Fields church, Trafalgar Square, London.

The UK-based charity, set up in 1966, has long worked in some of the most dangerous places in the world to forge lasting peace and reconciliation between opposing communities often torn apart by ethnic, religious and territorial conflict.

Addressing a congregation of more than 300, Lord Williams said: “Roy demonstrated it was possible to be a peace-maker because he was grateful for the peace of God. The task of the peacemaker is to cope with the abundance of God’s peace poured out on the earth, on the cross and through the resurrection.”

The former archbishop said later that “there was a strong sense that Roy did what he did out of a … confidence that God had already made peace and what we had to do was make it visible.”

He said Roy’s special contribution was in the priority he gave to risky face-to-face involvement in building relationships in conflict situations. ”All peacemaking initiatives need people who are prepared to do that face-to-face brokering and to be visible signs that there is more than one story to be told and none of them the only right one.

“The best testimony to his legacy is going to be the readiness to recognise the indispensable importance of these personal contributions that seem to have little 'strategic' force, yet change the climate of conflict.”

Roy Calvocoressi began his work after 10 years as a practising barrister when, in 1963, he went out and launched CHIPS in Cyprus after the outbreak of intercommunal violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. A previously abandoned village was repaired and later resettled by a Turkish community in the heart of a predominantly Greek area. The people had good relations with the villages around them, sharing water supplies to their citrus groves. It was an open village: the only such village in Cyprus at the time.

From there he and CHIPS moved on to work among fishing communities in the Philippines, Northern Ireland, Brixton and Tottenham (post riots), northern India and Uganda (21 years of working towards peace between the Karimojong and Iteso peoples). In 2011 CHIPS began ongoing work in northern Ghana, scene of longstanding ethnic tensions.

He received an OBE in 2002 for his overseas work and his peacemaking work with CHIPS - a recognition of his ability to build trust at all levels, which once earned him an invitation to preach at Friday prayers at a local mosque in the Philippines.

Besides being director of CHIPS for over 40 years, other major roles included co-founder of the Langley House Trust which helps rehabilitate ex-offenders (1958), co-founder of the Christian fair trade organisation, Traidcraft (1979), a director of Christian Engineers in Development, and a longstanding chair and patron of community projects in Brixton and Tottenham, London.

 

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