Reflection: A special partnership with a city in Germany

Aachen Town Hall
Aachen Town Hall

The world seems to have gone election mad: France this month, The United Kingdom next month, and Germany in September.

There are a number of deck chairs being moved and re arranged across the whole of Europe, and with Brexit firmly on the table and our with drawl from the European Union agreed whatever the final outcome ends up. This is a massive upheaval in terms of the political stability of Europe, some will be glad and say its well over due, others will shake their heads in sorrow.

In August the Minster Choir has been invited to travel to our twin town of Aachen in Germany. They have been invited to take part in the commemoration events of the 500th anniversary of the German Reformation. They will perform in a number of concerts and at a special International Service bringing people from all over the world.

Halifax has been twined with Aachen for over 60 years. There has been much activity over the years, with lots of people coming and going, with schools, churches, Mayors, and many others who have built up friendships and partnerships over many years. Much of this has been the initiative of the Halifax Aachen Society and their sheer determination and commitment to ensure the relationship has stayed alive.

The city of Aachen was very badly bombed during the Second World War, and one of the first cities the Allies claimed at the end of the War. Europe had been at War with itself and had been terribly divided, and many people were left both dead and mourning. Many cities and towns had been destroyed by enemy action and much of Europe was lying in ruin. It was out of this desolation that a vision for a new Europe began to take hold, and eventually the European Union was formed, and despite all its failings, Europe has enjoyed relative peace ever since.

The cost of the Referendum and of Brexit, must not include the peace we have enjoyed and the twining of towns and cities between the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. The relationships that have been established creates a bond of affection and hospitality between nations and peoples, and helped to break down barriers and hostility. The decision to leave the Union means that in Halifax we need to work doubly hard to ensure that the relationship with the people of Aachen is not damaged in any way, and that the hand of friendship remains as strong as ever. It is some years now since The Mayor of Calderdale accepted the invitation to attend the annual Charlemagne Prize Ceremony, and this urgently needs to be reviewed by the local authority, as we ensure that these opportunities for understanding one another across Europe is protected and nurtured.

Back in 2014 we welcomed a church, civic, and military delegation to Halifax from Aachen as we commemorated the beginning of World War One. I’ll never forget those German soldiers who walked through the town alongside our own soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment, and the comment made by a member of the Halifax Royal British Legion We should have invited them to have come here years ago. Next year 2018 marks the end of the First World War – what do you think we should do to mark the occasion?