The Importance of Reconciliation in Conflict Resolution – Part 2

14 01 2013
Apartheid wall - Palestinian West Bank

Apartheid wall – Palestinian West Bank (Photo credit: nagillum)

I’m a bit behind on my writing due to moving from the US back to Indonesia, back to our work with local Muslims and Christians pursuing peace.  What a joy to be surrounded by people here who share a common dream for a better world and are willing to put aside their personal prejudices and pain to fulfill that dream!

Having a common dream positions us on the same side of any conflict—no longer US vs. THEM, but PEACEMAKERS vs. HATE, PREJUDICE, OPPRESSION, etc.  Whether we’re praying as a mixed group in our House of Prayer, or praying alone at home, we are learning to pray as one unified group.  It is my hope that this will lead to also identifying not only with the victims, but also with the victimizers, and praying as though they belong in our group as well: “Forgive US for our hatred and violence, heal US of our traumas and judgments toward others, show US ALL the best way forward to peace.”

Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA teaches that true intercession isn’t praying for God’s mercy for “them,” but identifying with others so deeply that we see ourselves in the same group together, crying out for mercy for “us”—an “us” that includes both ourselves and them.

It is this mindset of breaking down the walls between groups that separate us, and learning to identify with others as though they all were a part of “us,” that is needed when the reconciliation process begins.

Reconciliation begins when one person walks through the separating wall towards the offender (or one representing an offending group), hears their story and seeks to understand and feel their pain, and identifies himself as one of the same group (eg. a fellow-human, a fellow-sufferer, a fellow-seeker of God, a fellow-pursuer of peace,  etc.).  If the other person can receive this repositioning, both will find themselves companions on the same side of the wall.

The first time this happens for some people, it is mind-blowing.  Many Christians have never imagined a Muslim could be on the same side as them about anything; the same is true of Muslims never imagining Christians could be on their side.  But when that magical moment happens, suddenly a massive group of perceived enemies becomes an unlimited source of potential friends.  People previously observed and quickly passed over because of their clothes or other outward sign of “otherness” are examined more closely, as though one is singing a melody blindfolded while listening for who might be humming a harmony unnoticed before.

The exchange of ideas, truths and beliefs only flows freely between those on the same side of the wall.  We all know how easily we can hear new ideas from those who are similar to us, and how resistant we are to ideas from those who come from groups we don’t like.  Many people do Christian evangelism or Muslim dak’wa by lobbing “truth grenades” over the wall to destroy the arguments of the other group.  A sincere hearing of each others’ differing beliefs can only happen when we find enough in common that we are willing to hear difficult words from a friend, with complete assurance that we’ll remain friends who will always carry some level of difference in our personal, cultural and religious beliefs.

Those differences do not threaten our relationship—they enrich it.  Those differences deserve to be treated with honor.  At the same time, people do change, and love is the most conducive of all environments to incubate radical change.  When we’re positioned on the same side of the wall, we both will change.  This combination of the love which brings us closer to one another, and the honor we show for our differences, testifies to the world of hope for reconciliation, conflict resolution, and true peacemaking.

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