Transitional Justice & Reconciliation Processes

An operation that looks back on the past, reconciliation brings about the personal healing of survivors, the reparation of past injustices, the building or rebuilding of non-violent relationships between individuals and communities, and the acceptance by the former parties to a conflict of a common vision and understanding of the past.

In its forward-looking dimension, reconciliation means enabling victims and perpetrators to get on with life and, at the level of society, the establishment of a civilised political dialogue and an adequate sharing of power.

The experience of a brutal past makes the search for peaceful co-existence a delicate and intricate operation. Reconciliation is not an isolated act, but a process, and as such usually a difficult, long and unpredictable one involving various steps and stages.

Each move demands changes in attitudes (e.g. tolerance instead of revenge), in conduct (e.g. joint commemoration of all the dead instead of separate memorials), and in the institutional environment (e.g. integrating the war veterans of both sides into one national army instead of keeping ex-combatants in quasi-private militias).

Above all, the approach must be that every step counts, that every effort has value, and that in this delicate domain, even a small improvement is significant progress.

Justice leads to reconciliation, not revenge. Justice and truth represent the concrete requisites for reconciliation. In order to re-establish relationships of mutual acceptance between divided peoples in the name of reconciliation, it is necessary to go beyond the determination of criminal behaviour.

It is necessary to promote respect for the right to peace. This right encourages the building of a society in which structures of power give way to structures of cooperation, with a view to the common good.

“Love your enemies” is the driving commandment from the Gospel. It is indeed very demanding and hard to accept. The biblical vision of reconciliation became a strong inspiration of Pax Christi International. How many situations today call for reconciliation?

Reconciliation is at the heart of the peace work of Pax Christi International. In the face of this challenge, on which peace depends, Pax Christi International calls all its Members, and all people of good will, to devote themselves in an active and practical way to the work of reconciliation.

 

Highlights

  • Pax Christi International and many member organisations have been organising different events and seminars with leaders of civil society and different religions in the former Yugoslavia, such as Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina on the issue of religion and peace-building during the conflict in the '90s as well as in post-war situations.
  • In Northern Ireland, during and after the violent conflict between the two divided communities, Pax Christi sections in the United Kingdom and Ireland have been organising seminars and public events in order to bring people together, to listen to the victims of the violence, to heal the wounds of the past, and to create the necessary social climate in which processes of reconciliation become possible.
  • Pax Christi International was and is involved in activities focusing on Polish-German, German-Russian, and Czech-German reconciliation in Europe. Pax Christi Germany organises Retreats for Peace and Reconciliation in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  • Pax Christi International organised the Regional Consultation in the Greater Horn of Africa on peace negotiations, reconstruction, and reconciliation efforts.
  • Pax Christi International held workshops in Vukovar (Croatia) and Warsaw (Poland) on the issue of transformative justice.