Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground

Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground

Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground

Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground


"As nations struggling to heal wounds of civil war and atrocity turn toward the model of reconciliation, "Reconciliation in Divided Societies" takes a systematic look at the political dimensions of this international phenomenon.... The book shows us how this transformation happens so that we can all gain a better understanding of how, and why, reconciliation really works. It is an almost indispensable tool for those who want to engage in reconciliation"--from the foreword by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

As societies emerge from oppression, war, or genocide, their most important task is to create a civil society strong and stable enough to support democratic governance. More and more conflict-torn countries throughout the world are promoting reconciliation as central to their new social order as they move toward peace and stability.

Scores of truth and reconciliation commissions are helping bring people together and heal the wounds of deeply divided societies. Since the South African transition, countries as diverse as Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, Fiji, Morocco, and Peru have placed reconciliation at the center of their reconstruction and development programs. Other efforts to promote reconciliation--including trials and governmental programs--are also becoming more prominent in transitional times. But until now there has been no real effort to understand exactly what reconciliation could mean in these different situations. What does true reconciliation entail? How can it be achieved? How can its achievement be assessed? This book digs beneath the surface to answer these questions and explain what the concepts of truth, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation really involve in societies that are recovering from internecine strife.

Looking to the future as much as to the past, Erin Daly and Jeremy Sarkin maintain that reconciliation requires fundamental political and economic reform along with personal healing if it is to be effective in establishing lasting peace and stability. Reconciliation, they argue, is best thought of as a means for transformation. It is the engine that enables victims to become survivors and divided societies to transform themselves into communities where people work together to raise children and live productive, hopeful lives. "Reconciliation in Divided Societies" shows us how this transformation happens so that we can all gain a better understanding of how and why reconciliation is actually accomplished.


A reconciliation movement is taking place throughout the world. People are beginning to see that there is a way out of the bloodshed and fighting and violence. They are beginning to see that if they try to understand one another, try to see the humanity in every person, then they can learn to get along, or at least live in peace with one another.

This reconciliation movement did not start in South Africa; people have been trying to reconcile for centuries. But in South Africa, it became a centerpiece of our transition to democracy. and it did not start with an announcement by President Mandela that a commission would be named. It started in the hearts of millions of people who wanted to build the new South Africa on pillars of love and understanding and redemption. At the end of apartheid, as in the aftermath of all kinds of oppression throughout the world, many people didn’t want to be vengeful. They didn’t want to commit crimes against those who had committed crimes against them. They didn’t want people to languish in horrible jails just because that is what had been done to them. But they also knew that they could not just ignore the past. They couldn’t pretend that the pass laws, the banning, the arbitrary arrests, the daily degradations had never happened. Because they did happen, and they left indelible marks on every person who suffered under apartheid. But the people who inherited the new South Africa did not want to perpetuate the anger and hatred that had been directed against them. They wanted another way out. They needed to deal with the pain in their hearts, but they wanted to transcend it. They wanted nurturing for themselves not punishment for others.

Reconciliation was the way out. It is a way to transform individuals, and the whole of society. It is a way to look at perpetrators of human rights abuses and see brothers and sisters. a way to look at the victim in oneself . . .

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