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Squaring the Circle - Conflict Resolution/Transformation
The 2014 Christians Aware Annual Conference
Our visitors from Bethlehem provided an excellent focus for our conference. They came from Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution/Transformation Centre in Bethlehem. The quotation from Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of the centre, which I included in the editorial, is vital, not just for the people of Israel/Palestine, but for divided people everywhere. Zoughbi Zoughbi says, ‘We have only one option, for Palestinians and Israelis to live together.’
Zoughbi was introduced to everyone by Garth Hewitt who talked and sang of struggles for freedom and justice from all over the world. His inclusion of Chartist hymns gave hope from a dire situation which ultimately led to recognition and some justice for oppressed British people in the 19th Century. Garth, as always, sang about the people of the Middle East and the situations they face.
The bible study by Alan Wilson, chair of Christians Aware, underlined the importance of community in conflict transformation. He spoke of healing being through relationships and not in the first place through issues. We all have to build peace from within, which means that we have to want to do this and to go on to seek peace with our neighbours. When issues are impossible to agree, when differences are irreconcilable, they just have to be accepted and lived with. We studied Romans 14, where we are all challenged to do what is right for ourselves and not to pass judgement on others, who are to be received and lived with on the basis of respect and equality.
Our first speaker, David Porter, emphasised that conflict resolution may not be possible in every situation in our world today, but conflict transformation is possible, with hard work and determination. . David is from Northern Ireland, where he has been part of work for peace for many years. He began by saying that the argument is not resolved in Northern Ireland, but that nevertheless a decision has been made to stop the fighting and to work together. The decision to live together as a community however has not yet been achieved. David said, ‘Until someone secures the community reconciliation work can collapse.’ Peace can only come when communities come together in forgiveness of each other, otherwise peace and justice are unrealisable. Reconciliation work is the challenge to make the enemy liveable with and ultimately a friend and, with the love of God this is always possible.
Peace may come through listening to the enemy and then moving on to reconciliation. ‘Progress has been made when my enemy tells my story and I am able to recognise and accept it.’ Both sides have to listen and to accept each other and for this to be possible there has to be a balance of power. An outside power may sometimes make this achievable.
Our world today is divided and often deeply alienated. We have often lost touch with what it means to be human and to live with difference, at home and around the world. We have a history of warfare and violence and must remember that it takes as long to work for peace as it does to wage war. Before we can work for peace we must all learn to listen and to forgive.
The good news is that the Christian vision is of conflicts being transformed through God’s love. Truth, peace and mercy are essential to the journey and are there at the end.
Sara Savage said that many conflicts cannot be resolved but it is possible to change the way they are understood. ‘Integretive Complexity’ or ‘IC’ exists on a scale from low to high. The challenge is to raise ‘IC’ so that understanding and some resolution of conflicts is possible. Raising the ‘IC’ of groups is not easy but includes the task of helping the groups to understand that different people view the world in different ways. Groups can be helped to move from seeing the world in simple terms to understanding the complexity of the many views. This makes integration possible, but not automatic.
Our conference raised awareness of many conflicts around the world, in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Israel/Palestine and Ethiopia. The hope is that the conflicts are not insurmountable. We can all struggle to understand and we can all do something to develop understanding and to bring transformation of conflict a little nearer.
More Pictures from Conference