01There are conflicts for which a mutually acceptable resolution dictates that political and economic issues need to be addressed. A war, an armed conflict, for instance, is initiated by a political decision taken by a certain state or states. The conduct of a war, however, often results in unquantifiable psychological damages, injustices, violations of human dignity. These consequences cannot be adequately dealt with and remedied in purely political and economic terms alone. Without addressing these non-material, psychological and moral/ethical issues a genuine resolution of conflicts for an enduring and peaceful co-existence cannot be achieved.
02Individuals or groups of individuals who are to initiate and conduct a dialogue or negotiation towards a resolution of a conflict need to be accepted and perceived by both parties in conflict as men of moral integrity, people who are imbued themselves with a sense of fairness and human dignity. There might be circumstances in which participation of a third party not directly involved in the conflict in question is desirable. Even in cases of conflict between groups of individuals such as nations, grassroots efforts by individuals involved in the conflict could be meaningful, effective, and ought to be encouraged to supplement efforts made at a level of states and nations through diplomatic channels and negotiations. Damages are often sustained not only by a group, a nation as a whole, but also by its constituent individuals. Personal, grassroots efforts towards reconciliation could be appealing to victimised individuals.
03If a conflict has arisen as a result of an outstanding, purely financial debt, it can be resolved by the debtor paying up or the creditor writing the debt off. However, if reconciliation is to be achieved in cases which also have a moral, ethical, not just a material dimension, forgiveness is a sine qua non. In my Christian and biblical belief and heritage, a sin to be adequately dealt with is metaphorically cast in financial terms. In the Lord’s Prayer we say: “Forgive our debts as we have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). Commenting on this, Jesus says in the immediately following verse: “If you forgive people their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6.14). The financial term, “debt”, has been replaced by the ethical term, “transgression”. Just as no financial dealings and transactions can proceed without an outstanding debt adequately being dealt with first, no genuine, meaningful relationship can be maintained and developed between individuals or groups of individuals if a sin, transgression or some wrongdoing with a moral dimension which has damaged the relationship between them remains unresolved and adequately addressed mutually.
04A perpetrator, whether an individual or a group of individuals such as a nation, must be seen as having honestly faced his past and wrongful deed(s) and admitting it as wrong, something which he should not have done. He needs to admit his worngdoing(s) openly and in unambiguous and concrete terms to the wronged party. Unless both parties have faced the past, a process which could be difficult and painful not only to the perpetrator, but also to the wronged party, no genuine forgiveness and reconciliation can be expected to be achieved. To forgive when the perpetrator is not aware of the wrongful nature of his deeds or refuses to admit it may free the victim from seemingly never-ending mental agony and frustration, but such a forgiveness may turn out to be not more than self-gratification. There is a chance that the perpetrator repeats the same act and victimises another person. In this sense, forgiveness is conditional: the party to be granted forgiveness needs to realise what he is being forgiven and what it costs the person who is forgiving.
As regards a universal council on reconciliation, I would say this. Circumstances under which conflicts arise are so vastly diverse. I am somewhat sceptical that one can meaningfully and effectively deal with them in universal, abstract terms. One way in which the forum envisaged by Ara Pacis Initiative can make meanigfully contribute could be collecting records of successful resolution of conflicts and disseminating such records widely.
|< Prev||Next >|