Peacebuilding and Reconciliation
In the past six years, over four million people have been killed in wars, 90% of them civilians. There are now 18 million refugees and 24 million internally displaced – a doubling since 1985. In the last 15 years, we have seen civil wars caused by identity rather than territorial ambition breaking out in many parts of Africa, the Balkans, Indonesia and elsewhere where the majority of victims are civilians.
African Union forces struggled to keep the peace in Darfur
A recent United Nations report said that conflict and development are mortal enemies. In Caritas, we have seen many of the development projects supported over the years in ruins as one ethnic, linguistic or religious group attacks another.
Peace-building refers to the long-term project of building peaceful, stable communities and societies, and needs to be grounded in a firm foundation of justice and reconciliation. The process needs to strengthen and restore relationships and transform unjust institutions and systems.
Rather than just looking at the specific ways to improve food production or build new houses, peace-building emphasizes building right relationships with partners as an integral part of establishing peace in violence-prone areas.
In Kosovo and parts of Croatia and Serbia, Caritas is involved in special educational projects in mixed ethnic areas. The parents have to talk together, make decisions together about the curriculum and they are willing to do so for the sake of their children. They must also decide how to approach contentious subjects such as history and peace.
Being present at the grassroots, the church is in an ideal position to warn of potential conflict and encourage ‘peace-building from below’ – to help establish peace committees, counteract false information and reduce stereotypes that reify people, promote human rights and use mediation techniques.
The experience of reconciliation makes the victim and the wrongdoer, as St Paul says, a ‘new creation,’ (2 Cor. 5:17). In other words, the former state is not restored but they are taken to a new place where the evildoer repents and the victim no longer demands vengeance.
Making spaces where reconciliation might be possible has led to Caritas organizing camps for Jewish and Palestinian children, restoring traditional ways of reconciliation in shattered cultures in Sierra Leone, trying to end blood feuds in Albania or tribal wars in Papua New Guinea.
FEATURES Peacebuilding and Reconciliation Peace-building: A Caritas Training Manual Women and Conflict in Rwanda Conflict resolution in Darfur camps Uganda lost children Resistance with wits in Taybeh Colombia: peace is possible Letter from a militia leader in Lebanon’s civil war Faith leaders join forces in Tanzania