Peace Brigades International has been chosen as a recipient of the Gernika Awards for Peace and Reconciliation for “facilitating the transformation of conflicts and for laying the foundations for future reconciliation processes.”
"The Gernika Prize for Peace and Reconciliation 2020 in one of its nominations has been awarded by the International Peace Brigades for the outstanding work of the volunteers and their great commitment to the defense of human rights, peace, and justice in the world."
PBI-Spanish State commented: "We are deeply grateful for the recognition, not only for the value it brings to the almost 40 years of work in favor of non-violence, but also for the symbolic importance that a city like Gernika has in promoting peace culture."
The award ceremony was to take place on April 26 but given the coronavirus pandemic, an alternate arrangement is likely to be made.
On April 26, 1937, the Nazi German Luftwaffe Condor Legion and the Italian fascist Aviazione Legionaria conducted an aerial bombing of the Basque town of Gernika on behalf of Francisco Franco’s rebel Nationalist faction during the Spanish Civil War.
The BBC reports, “Gen Franco wanted to terrorize the people in the Basque region, an area of strong resistance to his nationalist forces in the Civil War. For Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, it was an opportunity to get some practice with a new form of warfare: strategic, aerial bombing of civilians. No strictly military objectives were touched. Factories and bridges were left alone – civilians were the only targets.”
Starting at 4:30 pm that day, 25 or more Nazi German Luftwaffe bombers, accompanied by at least 20 more Messerschmitt and Fiat fighters, dropped 100,000 pounds of bombs on the town over a 3-hour period killing an estimated 300 people and wounding many more. While factories may have been spared, 70 percent of the town was destroyed.
Franco ruled Spain until his death in November 1975. The first free election since 1936 then took place in June 1977.
In 1987, Gernika Gogoratuz (Remembering Gernika) was formed as a Peace Research Centre to develop activities within the framework of Memory and Culture of Peace.
On April 24, 1999, the German parliament formally apologized to the citizens of Gernika for the role the Condor Legion played in bombing the town.
In 2005, the Gernika Awards were established by the Gernika-Lumo city council, the German city of Pforzheim’s city council, Gernika Gogoratuz and others, to recognize work is done for peace, reconciliation, human rights, and social justice.
One of PBI’s founders, Murray Thomson, passed away in Ottawa in May 2019. He is known to have said, “Hiroshima made me a pacifist.”
This year, the Gernika Award is also being presented to the Japanese initiative Kids Guernica, an international children’s art project the facilitates the creation of peace murals. This initiative was inspired by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica (that commemorates the bombing of Gernika, seen in the photo below) and in response to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military in 1945.