Time for peace
Back in May 1992 when the Centre for Peace pronounced its forming and announced its work, Croatia was still at war and Osijek was under artillery attacks. Reactions that we received back then were mostly warnings: “Do you think that we don’t want peace, but it’s a war right now – it is important to defend ourselves and to survive, peace initiatives may be dangerous, they are even suspicious because they can make us weak.” On the other hand, today I encounter surprised reactions why are we still busy with building peace when almost two decades have elapsed since the end of the war.
Now almost twenty years after but still involved in civil peace initiatives, I am in a position to provide the following response in respect of the above mentioned comments:
- We experienced how important it is to opt for peace and strive toward peace even when war is still going on.
- We are doing this by investing our efforts in preserving attitude and practice that the principle of freedom and justice must be applied equally in respect of all humans even under the war circumstances. In war, although it may seem as a paradox, paying respect to the dignity of each human, including of the enemy, may not be postponed for some other times. Ordinary person knows, actually, that it is not permissible, not even during the war, to abuse and kill children, women, civilians, detained persons and persons who are ill. However, if atrocities/misdoings are publicly proclaimed as a national issue, then there exists a moral duty for people to publicly say: “Not in my name!”. Also, people need space to be left open for them to personally have a choice of decision in respect of their conscientious objection – war can never be proclaimed as the only right answer and imposed as such on everyone else.
- In war we build peace through interconnectedness and solidarity between people - by helping the needy ones. Empathy and solidarity that we receive will safeguard our capacities necessary to recover from our traumas, to forgive and to try to start living a peaceful life again. Even persons with horrible experiences of abuse and torture usually keep somewhere storage of precious memories on gestures of support received from a woman or a man.
During war, we need peace oriented efforts that will prevent an escalation of war conflicts leading to a mutual destruction and self-destruction: it is possible, even only one-sidedly, to persist in pleading for cessation of war and for an agreeable conflict resolution.
- On the other hand, if peace is to be understood as relationships in which individuals and groups find space for their development on the basis of their own possibilities, and not at the expense of others, then we see that peace needs to be build at all times (even in peacetime). This can be realised by following a simple formula: to work on improving relations so that they create more good than bad things, irrespective of the fact whether it concerns emotional, psychological, economical or political sphere.
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?
As I said before, it is important that even during the war one consciously has to make steps toward peace by preserving the essence of peace – a human dignity.
When speaking of peace negotiations, then peace agreement and implementation thereof should incorporate elements of transition justice in order to preserve human dignity. Transition justice elements include: establishing of the fate of missing and detained people, co-operation in respect of establishing facts on war crimes, possibility of publicly presenting the suffering of victims (truth telling mechanisms), apologies, erecting monuments and co-operation of compensations to victims of war crimes.
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 find that it is important to create space in which parties involved in conflict (representatives from all social, political and economical levels) would have a dialogue about desirable future (sustainable peace and development) and agree on a mutual ground – elements that are important and acceptable for both sides that they wish to realize through co-operation.
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 that are part of your personal spiritual heritage could in your opinion have a universal significance?
Forgiveness, essentially is not what we find “normalization” or peace as the absence of war. For a “Shalom”, however, a basic trust is needed and in my opinion it cannot be renewed without reconciliation (after the conflict) or be acquired without accepting differences.
I find helpful the following golden rule: “Do to others what you would like to be done to you”.
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 suggest for a universal council on reconciliation?
In my opinion, forgiveness does not require some form of repentance on the side of those to whom forgiveness is offered (it is necessary for reconciliation). Sometimes, despite repentance it does not come to forgiveness. However, time is needed to address trauma, fear, anger, rage, sorrow. Empathy and solidarity play a significant role in this. For believers, connection with God is a basis for confidence that their suffer is recognised.
In addition to what is provided in the summary of the proposal that I read, I would have added a support to International Criminal Tribunal, i.e. insisting on criminal responsibility of war crime perpetrators.
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