Rituals of Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East

Article excerpt

Rituals of Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East

George Emile Irani, professor of justice and peace studies at Georgetown University, spoke on the significance of rituals of reconciliation at the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine March 12. Irani argued that the roots for a durable peace are to be found in the cultural and religious heritages of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in the Middle East.

He contends that the failure of current negotiations was predictable because the Oslo process was conceived far from the geo-cultural heart of the conflict. A durable peace could be forged if traditional rituals of reconciliation were used, he said.

An alien peace imposed by an outsider is often perceived as not fair or just by the population, Irani declared, and the result is a feeling of cultural disempowerment. He described the Sulh process (the word Sulh -- reconciliation -- comes from the words for peace Salaam, Shalom), which is carded out by two parties to prevent retribution. The parties seek the help of esteemed impartial mediators, who are given full permission to intervene and arbitrate. They hear grievances from both sides and then the aggrieved party agrees to renounce retaliation and comply with a trace. A symbolic compensation sometimes referred to as "blood money," is paid. Finally there is a ritual of musafaha, a shaking of hands, with the victim's family offering bitter coffee to the offender, and the offender serving a meal to the victim's family, completing the ritual of reconciliation. …