Part 3: The Ministry of Reconciliation as Process

Reconciliation is both a process and a goal. It is both an ongoing work in which we participate and a final point at which we hope to arrive.

RECONCILIATION AS PROCESS

Participation in the horizontal dimension of reconciliation is about participating in God’s healing societies that have been wounded deeply and broken by oppression, injustice, discrimination, war, and wanton destruction. This healing begins with truth-telling, the breaking of the codes of silence that hide wrongdoing against the poor and vulnerable members of society.

Truth-telling also means overcoming and correcting the lies and distortions that bring unearned shame on the innocent and isolate people from one another so as to exercise hegemony over society. Truth-telling has to be a constant effort to tell the whole truth, both for victims and about wrongdoers. Truth-telling as a practice in this sense must encompass four things: It must be a truth that resonates with my experience of events, it must be in language I can understand, it must conform to my understanding of truthfulness, and it must come from someone I can trust.

RECONCILIATION AS GOAL

Truth-telling, struggling for justice, working toward forgiveness: these are the three central dimensions of the social process of reconciliation. In all situations I know, they are never undertaken on a level playing field; the consequences of oppression, violence, and war are not predisposed to honesty, justice, and even good intentions in all parties. Nor are the processes, for the most part, orderly. And they never seem to be complete. In fact, we usually experience them as truncated, prematurely foreclosed, hijacked by the powerful. What are we to do?

It is important not to confuse reconciliation as process with reconciliation as goal. In order to stay in the process, we must fix our eyes on the goal. For Christians, it is God who is working reconciliation; we are but agents in the process, participating in what God is doing. God is our strength; God is our hope.

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