1) Peace negotiations are, for the most part, focused on the political and economic dimensions. What is your perception of the necessity of touching deeper and more genuine aspects of reconciliation and how can this be achieved?
Early on in my life have I learned about peaceful conflict resolution and about the value and importance to negotiate disputes and to reconcile with enemy parties by watching my grandmother in action. She was a respected mediator in our community. My own convictions in regards to the necessity of reconciliation and forgiveness also stem from my parents. They taught me to respect people and treat them equally regardless of their national origin.
Because of my upbringing and my own personal life experiences I am convinced that genuine reconciliation can happen and does happen if and when disputing individuals who see each other as enemies have the opportunity to meet face-to-face and are led by knowledgeable persons who allow them to see the other as a fellow human being.
This is a complex process. It requires leaders that demonstrate by their example, and by their own life, that they are impartial and respect everyone. Thus they can bring people of different communities together.
I also believe that this process has to be embedded and be led by a cultural, religious or spiritual force that guides people towards forgiveness and reconciliation. This force is deeply rooted in ancient traditions and methods that have been passed on from generation to generation. They have provided sustainable resolutions thousands of times within many different communities. I have seen and experienced this spirit among the Albanian community in Kosovo. There is a strength that also raised and blessed Mother Theresa’s love and her Holy Spirit of freedom and peace for all.
For me the pillars of forgiveness and reconciliation are: spiritual willingness and trust to apologize and forgive; spiritual willingness and trust to face reality and accepting the facts that any human or property loss and all physical and emotional wounds inflicted during conflicts or wars cannot be restituted in any physical sense. We must believe and be convinced that they will return or be compensated for in the form of peace and tranquility for ourselves and for the future generations, on earth as well as in heaven.
I believe that these convictions and beliefs and this faith in regards to forgiveness and reconciliation is found among all peace-making persons. They are also based in a creative spirit and in wise cultural traditions that plead for avoiding violence, always seeking peaceful solutions.
Even if the larger political and economic reconciliation process is indispensable and transitional and new justice structures and systems have to be defined and introduced, they cannot be realized unless peoples are guided through a personal reconciliation process.
2) What are the conditions in which, beyond securing the interests of parties to conflict, a process that is centered on a sense of fairness and dignity can be established?
I believe that a process that results in an outcome considered fair by all disputing parties and that satisfies all parties’ expectations involved in conflict, and that also results in accepting the dignity of all parties involved, has to include face-to-face talks. Face-to-face meetings and deliberations are opportunities to recognize the other as a fellow human being. Yet, these opportunities have to be facilitated and mediated by nonpartisan, trusted, respected, skilled and well-trained and well informed men and women. A great deal of patience, understanding and faith in the process are other important conditions for an outcome that leads towards mutual empathy and towards reconciliation.
3) To what degree is forgiveness an essential dimension of reconciliation? At the root of your political culture and religious faith, what are the principles that either Imply or exclude forgiveness? Which verses or sayings are part of your personal spiritual heritage and could in your opinion have a universal significance?
- I am convinced that forgiveness is an essential dimension of the reconciliation process and key for any peaceful sustainable solution. Without forgiveness it is not possible to reach any lasting reconciliation.
- In the Kosovar/Albanian political, cultural and religious reality, there are different traditions regarding forgiveness. It depends on the nature of the conflict, on how the dispute is carried out, on the scale of the conflict, if the conflict is local and within the same community or between different communities and what is the stake in forgiveness.
- The principle of implying forgiveness is applicable in the majority of conflict events within the Albanian community itself, in particular if the conflict has caused victims. By forgiving one wants to avoid any revenge from the victim’s family or party against the offender family or party. I must say, however, that forgiveness is also an implied principle, in the majority of cases, even in conflicts between different ethnic communities or individuals, if the accused party is ready to apologize publicly and gets the appropriate punishment in case of a committed crime. Forgiveness if be excluded if the guilty party is not willing to apologize at all, especially in conflicts between different communities. This happens sometimes, however rarely, also within the Albanian community. I must emphasize that for the Albanian community it doesn’t matter from which religious background parties come from. There are no cases in the Albanian tradition or culture that can prove that parties in conflict fight because of their respective religious backgrounds.
- Some of my personal and spiritual heritage and verses are: “Treat others like you would like to be treated by others” (inherited from my lovely mother) ; “Don’t judge people through a third of fourth person, better talk to them face-to-face” (national cultural inherited) ; “Try all peaceful methods to resolve any conflicts, but never try to equalize unequal parties.” Even the same disease can’t be healed with same medicine (war victims versus last war in Kosovo) ; “Impartiality cannot always bring impartial and well-balanced solutions” (from my experience).
4) Does forgiveness require some form of repentance on the side of those to whom forgiveness is offered? Does forgiveness have conditions or is it unconditional? Based on your experience on working with reconciliation and forgiveness what are the structure and activities you would offer for a universal council on reconciliation?
- Yes, I believe that forgiveness requires in most cases some form of repentance on the side of those to whom forgiveness is offered. For a sustainable solution and for forgiveness to be possible, I consider it important that it is based on regrets, sometimes publicly announced, and on an apology from the “offender” towards the “guilty” side. Sometimes, depending on the nature and scale of the conflict, the principle of forgiveness and expressed apology has to be adjusted, in order to balance the interests of the parties in view of the sustainability of the agreed solutions.
- I think that a universal council on reconciliation could include a number of different structures and activities that all have been used countless times very successfully and are proven peace-making instruments. For example: mediation, facilitation of dialogues, peacemaking and conciliation activities. They can be strengthened and supported by public debates, media campaigns, conferences, round-tables, advocacy campaigns, traditional conferencing (gatherings), youth festivals and arts events, like poetry readings or traveling exhibitions, etc.
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