Wednesday, 28 August 2013

2013 Reconciliation: Vet to Vet



The 1982 conflict

Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins have defined the 1982 Conflict as a freak of history, almost certainly the last colonial war that Britain will ever fight. 16

Unfortunately, two countries with at least 180 years of strong historical bonds entered a 33 days conflict which caused the KIA of 649 Argentines (323 of the cruiser ARA General Belgrano, 102 were 18 years old conscripts), 255 British and three women civilian.Besides there were 1082 Argentines and 777 British injured. 14,21,26

The drama came years later for both sides. According to the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA) in the decades following the 1982 conflict 264 British veterans committed suicide. (Alun Rees-Mail On Sunday-Suicide of Falkland Veterans- Suicide-Falklands-veterans.html). However, later it was said to be 96 suicides based on DASA Defense Analytical Services and Advice published by the UK Ministry of Defense on 14 May 2013. According to a lecture given by the Argentine President on February 7th, 2012 there have been 439 Argentine war veterans deaths since 1982.1,4

Torn between two feelings

According to the Oxford dictionary reconciliation is the action of making one view or belief compatible with another. When watching the 1982 conflict casualties we wonder about reconciliation. We ask ourselves: 
  • How can we talk about reconciliation when we often can´t find it in our own homes or family 
  • How can we talk about reconciliation when the media presents us an stereotyped profile of a foe or even a country ?.  
  • How can we talk about reconciliation when the adversary has KIA our comrade, our brother or a son?  
  • Where are the lads who stood with me when history was made? (from the Irish melody The Boys of the Old Brigade) .  
  • Did my son die in vain ?  
  • How can we talk about reconciliation when were left with a severe disability or the nightmare of PTSD?  
  • How can we talk about reconciliation if we didn´t trust wholeheartedly to God who seemed to be absent in the battlefield?  
  • How can we talk about reconciliation with someone who´ve never been in battle?  
  • How can we talk about reconciliation when our land was overrun and our landmarks decimated
This is no doubt a very old and painful problem for mankind.

The Bible which contains 62 verses on reconciliation depicts a deep tension between a vision of reconciliation on the one hand and commited hatred on the other and as a result of this Christians are torn between the two everytime a war is fought.

The feelings among the 1982 war veterans

Reconciliation between Argentine and British forces was most probably coined during the Nottingham International Colloquium which took place on November 17-19, 2006 at Willoughby Hall and later published in the well known book Hors de Combat: The Falklands-Malvinas Conflict in Retrospect published by CCP in UK.

As founder of The Nottingham-Malvinas Group, and thirty one years after the conflict, I asked four simple questions to Argentine and British war veterans alike. I included as well a known British journalist . The questions and and summary of their answers were as follows:

1. Which would be the factors that may promote reconciliation among Argentine and British war veterans?

a) Fluid communication:

The communication between combatants of both sides was most useful as it allowed them to know what really happened (let us remember that combats like Mount Tumbledown took place at night) and provided historical accuracy.

We should remember as well that there were bitter hand-to-hand bayonets fighting in inhospitable conditions.27 and the contact with their opponents help them to cope better with the aftermath. (BBC News Falkland veteran meets Argentine ememy).

Communication boost morale and help this men to fight their inner demons.During the visit to Buenos Aires on March 23rd, 2007 Major (ret) Mike Seear 1st Battalion, 7th Duke of Edinurgh`s Own Gurkha Rifles in March 1982, author of Return to Tumbledown told the Argentine artillery gunners (deeply emotionally scarred) of the 5th Marine Infantry Battalion who bombed his unit: You were the best 10,19. They asked him : How do you know we were the best?. Seear replied: Because we have an intelligence service and besides you are Marines and everywhere in the world the Marines are the best force.

Major (ret) Mike Seear said: Ultimately we experienced the same thing. We were both scared. Seear recently stated: As a retired British Army officer and combat veteran of that war, it was without doubt the defining and most pivotal period of my life. It pointed out the direction of my life post-war, and made the person that I am now. I did my job in the war, but the latter taught me many things about myself that I did not know pre-war .

Later this year Seear called me telling about a British war veteran who was struggling with his PTSD. The idea of having killed an Argentine soldier who was surrendering haunted him. I searched and found an Argentine Marine Corps Petty Officer war veteran who was on the same spot than this British veteran. The former told him (what we suspected) and it was that such a thing could never have happened at the time he described. Once again the testimony of the opponent had a tremendous impact on the recovery of a war veteran.
As British veteran once said: “It is the dialogue with those we fought against, rather than with those we fought for, that offered the hope of reconciliation.

Since November 1993, at UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Cyprus) Argentine and UK forces operated together in Cyprus controlling 3 percent of the island territory. In Cyprus 18 the Mobile Force Reserve (MFR) was under a British Major command while an Argentine second in charge operated a section.

b) Lack of hate:

Commander Juan Carlos Ianuzzo, secretary of an important Argentine war veteran´s association (AVEGUEMA) told me that there was a high professionalism and no place for hate. Both sides recognized the courage of the adversary, especialy the one displayed by the British units. As a matter of fact two British war veterans are members of this Argentine association.

Commander Eduardo Villarraza of the Marine Corps 5th Battalion who fought in Mount Tumbledown said: On the other hand, the military knows that war is the last option to solve conflicts and besids its the most expensive one. As we know its costs its obvious than is better to solve with dialogue as many conflicts we have.

Maj (Ret)Mike Seear said: There has never been any hate directed towards your former enemy on the battlefield. So there is no hate to extinguish when you meet them in such a meeting. However the key point to make is that those you are now meeting in peaceful circumstances had been trying to kill you during the war, and you had been trying to kill them. It is therefore an emotionally-charged meeting – and one, in my humble experience, that always generates a ‘good vibrations’ feeling. Therefore my participation in such meetings have always, without exception, been successful and rewarding. Why? It is because you have made a sincere attempt to get to know your former enemy who previously has just been a faceless and nameless one. The memory of these meetings, just like the war, stays with you for the rest of your life.

Regarding war Bishop Cocksworth, the youngest diocesan bishop in the Church of England said: War is a most terrible thing and we all must take responsibility for the fact of it. We all know that the reasons for wars are very complex, they are rooted in the deep historical past. It seems to me a mature human response to recognise that in some sense we must all take responsibility for the violence in our world. “We know that violence doesn’t work and is always a second best, and war, the last resort,” he says. “There may be times when it is necessary but it is better avoided, so we must find ways – just as we find ways in our families – within our nation [to avoid it]. We must tirelessly work to avoid the personal, social and economic cost of war. 5

c) Respect and loyalty:

According to Cliff Caswell of Soldier magazine: British and Argentine veterans share one specific quality. There is a recognition that both sides conducted themselves properly in their duty, in accordance with the rules of battle, and have values of respect and loyalty in common.

Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins stated that the 1982 conflict was fought with remarkable respect for decency on both sides. The International Committee of the Red Cross also gave the beligerent partis a broadly clean bill of health in their 1985 report.

Reunited Royal Navy anti-aircraft gunner war veteran Neil Wilkinson (HMS Intrepid) came face-to-face with Argentinian A4 Skyhawk jet pilot Mariano Velasco who he thought he had killed in the war. Now after five years of tracking Mr Velasco down and chatting on email, the pair met in Argentina and Neil finally put his night-mare past behind him. Mr Velasco embraced Mr Wilkinson and said: ‘Hello Neil, welcome to my house.’ Mr Wilkinson replied: ‘It’s an honour.’ Mr Velasco added: ‘Good soldiers should be able to forgive each other and afterwards why can’t they be friends, be good friends.’.Wilkinson said: He welcomed me with open arms and that’s all I wanted. It’s too massive to put into words. Part of it is closure really, but meeting him in the flesh I now know he is alive and we are friends. 25

"Don´t let anyone tell you that 
reconciliation is a meaningless concept"

d) Governments`attitudes towards war veterans:

These Argentine and British men who fought for cause and comrades did not obtained in due time the expected support from their goverments.

Sebastian Junger author and documentarian, whose books include the work War and the film Restrepo said: Perhaps war is so obscene that even the people who supported it don´t want to hear the details or acknowledge their role. Soldiers face myriad challenges when they return home , but one of the most destructive is the sense that their country doesn´t realize that it and not just the soldiers went to war. The country approved, financed and justified war and sent the soldiers to fight it. This is important because it returns the moral burden of war to its rightful place: with the entire nation. 20 

In Argentina, the term desmalvinización was coined by the french politician Alain Rouquié was to be used in different symposium since june 1982. The word allegedly implied a process followed by military, civilian governments and relevant groups of the Argentine society backboned by the media. It meant many things:  

  • To act as if the Malvinas conflict never took place,
  •  To consider the soldiers as inept `children of the war` (even a film depicted them this way) , 
  • Consider a foolish thing to have fought against the British power and 
  • Mixing the involvement in the South Atlantic conflict with the political and social upheaval the country was experiencing at that time. 8 

In the UK, British military veterans claimed they were not adequately treated for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and filed suit against the British Ministry of Defense. (CMAJ-Suicide claiming more British Falkland veterans than fighting did-May 28, 2002 ). Of the 25.715 British Servicemen deployed to the Malvinas on Operation Corporate some 1,200 (about 5%) have been supported by Combat Stress. (Mike Seear personal communication)

In 2010, the British Gurkha Welfare Society said that about 25,000 men who had retired before 1 July 1997 were denied the opportunity to transfer into UK Armed Forces pension schemes. ( BBC News-Who are the Gurkhas?-27 July 2010) There was a judicial review on this matter in the British High Court and a judgement issued on 11 January 2010. This judgement upheld the UK Ministry of Defense policy on Gurkhas pensions. (BBC News-Gurkha veterans lose pensions test case battle with MoD)

2. Which are the factors that work against the reconciliation between Argentine and British war veterans?

a) The language barrier:

Until recently, Spanish has not been a subject widely taught in British schools, with French and German taking precedence. Spanish is one of the fastest-growing languages in the world and it is spoken by an estimated 350 million people globally. Counting only native speakers, Spanish actually outranks English, which makes learning and teaching Spanish a smart choice

b) The distance:

The main barrier is purely distance (7391 miles), although technology has certainly helped a lot to comunicate combatants of both sides.

c) The media:

Some newspapers take a very belligerent, nationalistic and bellicose tone where the Malvinas issue is concerned. They perpetuate an agenda with subtle political aims that is not necessarily shared by many former soldiers, yet is presented to the public as fact. We all know the extreme dangers of jingoism 7 and yellow journalism shown by certain tabloids. 31 

d) Stereotyping:

The British gentleman vs the ignorant gaucho. Stereotypes are qualities assigned to groups of people related to their race, nationality and sexual orientation, to name a few. Because they generalize groups of people in manners that lead to discrimination and ignore the diversity within groups, stereotypes among war veterans should be strongly avoided . 13,28

e) Negative attitude of Malvinas Islanders to formal meetings of combat veterans of both sides on the battlefield.(Personal communication Maj (ret) Mike Seear). 2 

Mike Seear said: ¨ The ultimate for a combat veteran must be to walk in slow time and during daylight the old battlefield with his former enemy in a group as pointed out in my book (Return to Tumbledown). Surviving US Marine Corps veterans of the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima with their surviving former Japanese opponents did just this on Iwo Jima in 1970. So why, in principle, cannot Argentine and British veterans of the Falklands-Malvinas War do the same? Because of political objections from the Islanders (of whom less than 10% who experienced the war are still living on the Islands)?.

The very same concept was issued by 51 years old Argentine conscript Jorge Alberto Altieri Infantry Regiment 7 ¨Coronel Conde¨, Company B who fought in Mount Longdon. Altieri was wounded by artillery fire and left with a severe disability. 

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization approved on 20 june 2013 a draft resolution on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) by which the General Assembly would reiterate that the way to end that “special and particular colonial situation” was the peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom. 

3. Which would be the factors that may promote reconciliation among Argentine and British civilians ?

a) The healing of time and forgiveness 

Time has healed many wounds already and as Marianne Williamson founder of The Peace Alliance said: The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.

There is no timetable to this grieving process. We should remember, mainly in the case of the ARA General Belgrano´s conscripts that the death of a son is the most devastating loss and the life of their parents are forever changed.. Each parent´s journey is different. A brain doesn´t work right when a heart is broken.

Commodore (Ret) Toby Elliott said: The general UK population feels no animosity towards the Argentinian people, only towards its 1982 government.

b) Sports 

Cliff Caswell added: Soccer is actually a tremendous leveller. In the Premier League in the UK there have been many celebrated Argentine players, such as Carlos Tevez, and British children look up to them as role models and want to emulate them. There is an entire generation who do not remember the events of the war, and people who do not know where the islands are. I do not think reconciliation between civilians is required.

4- Which are the factors that work against the reconciliation between Argentine and British civilians?

a) A highly simplistic view of the whole debate 

Cliff Caswell said: Although there is no hostility to Argentina, politicians in both countries are hugely entrenched in their positions when it comes to the Malvinas issue. On key anniversaries the topic is brought forward again by the British media, which takes a highly simplistic view of the whole debate. This does not help matters at all, and a more sensible political approach and rational reporting of the issue would be a huge benefit. The British and Argentine people actually take a very different approach to Falklands-Malvinas. 9,23 

b) A shift from a fanatical devotion to a total indifference 

First Officer Radio Operator  (Merchant Navy) Francisco Elizalde decorated by the Argentine Navy said : The Argentine civilians, among whom I am included despite my war veteran condition , shift from a  fanatical devotion to a total indifference on the subject. The conflict never precluded us from keeping in contact with the British people.Only the bigots did that. It's been over 30 years now, we should have grown up (not only regarding the islands) thus being able to resolve the conflict peacefully. We have a common past deeper than that perceived by most people. We still use the standard British meat cuts, not the Spanish or Italians which are our two Mother Countries. I understand that we´ll reconcile when, with humility, we understand the other´s position and his achievements. Bigotry and politics separate veterans and non-veterans while humility, and acknowledgment of the oponent brings us together under any circumstances.

 c) A lack of historical analysis judged by an impartial institution 

War Veteran Marcelo Eduardo Ducuing (Fénix squadron) said: it would be great that Argentine and British could present historical proofs about the islands and to debate them. I would add in an appropiate forum and with a neutral partaker. There have been troubles even with official stories 11. In any case good historical writing is analytical, precise, accurate and interesting and follows a method and no doubt both countries have superb historical institutions.

d) The absence of trust 

The absence of trust renders all decision making a matter of law and all laws an attempt to cover every possible contingency, a complete impossibility in a world of change and journey. 32 

Surgeon-Commander Rick Jolly in his book The Green and Red Life Machine is illuminating ‘… if reconciliation was to be successful, then we would have to be honest with each other, since openness and truth were the preludes to forgiveness.’ 

How to deal with the reconciliation process 

1. Conflicts are to be expected 

According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, ongoing military conflicts in the world are causing more than 1000 deaths per year. Notwithstanding, conflicts are not definitive.

2. Reconciliation is a journey which implies forgiveness and love 

The complexities of the grace of reconciliation are experienced not only in our inner resistance and desire to circle the wagons, but also in grace having to be expressed as we journey. 32 

In journeying we must speak to each other. Silence is not peace. A German Quaker in 1958, speaking with the experience of a defeated and divided nation said: "the secret lies in the way in which truth is spoken Argument is not a bad thing; a deep anger that causes you to want nothing to do with the other is a bad thing,” says Bishop Cocksworth . “But generally, I see Christians wanting to sort it out, and as long as people are wanting to sort it out, they are on the road to reconciliation and maybe they are modelling something for the world.”

Cannon Paul Oestreicher former director of the Centre for International Reconciliation who received the Order of Merit of the State of Saxony said: Maybe a few have accepted that in war ,however just the cause, no one emerges with clean hands. Saying sorry is not a sign of weakness. 

Institutions of Reconciliation 

Three institutions have created the path to reconciliation: The Community of the Cross of Nails, the Call of Dresden and the Aktion Suehnezeichen Friedensdienste (ASF). To these we should add the French and German reconciliation. 

The Community of the Cross of Nails

On 14 November 1940, 515 Luftwaffe bombers from Luftlotte 3 and 13 specially modified Heinkel 111 of the Kampfgruppe 100 equiped with X-Gerät navigational devices made one of the most severe attacks intended to destroy Coventry´s factories in what was called Operation Mondscheinsonate (Moonlight Sonata). High explosive bombs were followed by incendiary bombs of magnesium and petroleum. At around 20.00hs the 14th-century Gothic church of St Michael (later Cathedral) built on the site of a Benedictine monastery was set on fire.In one night, more than 4,300 homes in Coventry were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's buildings were damaged. An estimated 568 people were killed in the raid with another 863 badly injured and 393 sustaining lesser injuries.

The ruined Coventry Cathedral was left as a ruin and is today still a reminder of the bombing. A new cathedral was constructed alongside the ruin in the 1950.

Reconciliation: Vet to Vet
The Community of the Cross of Nails, which today is an international network of over 170 CCN Partners in 35 countries committed to a shared ministry of reconciliation

In 2011, the ruins were designated as a memorial to all civilians killed, injured or traumatised by war and violent conflict world-wide. In order to commemorate these civilians, the Cathedral chose six themes to guide its focus: aerial bombing, refugees, sexual violence as a result of war, landmines, child soldiers, and the environmental impact of war.

The Coventry Cathedral Memorial Ruins project seeks to commemorate these six themes and to act as an advocate and platform in raising awareness of these issues through the use and implementation of art, education material, prayer and worship.30 

Wooden Cross and Cross of Nails 

Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall.  Another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails by local priest, the Revd Arthur Wales. 

Another cross was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral. Howard made a commitment not to revenge, but to forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.The cross of nails has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 160 Cross of Nails Centres all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one. 

Using a national radio broadcast from the cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940 Richard Howard declared that when the war was over he would work with those who had been enemies 'to build a kinder, more Christ-child-like world.' 

One of the crosses made of nails from the old Canterbury cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche) in Berlin which was severely damaged as well in an air raid on 14 November 1940. 

To the left of the statue of Christ is an icon cross which was given by the Russian Orthodox Church and handed over in 1988. In December 2007, Charles Jeffrey Gray, a former British pilot who carried out World War II bombing raids over Germany, joined a campaign to rescue the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church from decay. Gray contacted Wolfgang Kuhla, the chairman of the church's advisory board, urging that its tower be restored. In response, a fund was launched to help raise the costs of its repair 

A replica of the cross of nails was also donated to the Chapel of Reconciliation (Kapelle der Versöhnung) which forms part of the Berlin Wall Memorial.

During the 1982 conflict, a medieval cross of nails was carred by the HMS Coventry (Type 42 Sheffield class destroyer). It was her Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2 which fired on May 3, 1982 two Sea Skua missiles on 3 May at ARA Alferez Sobral (former USS  AT-187 Salish). When attacked , the ARA Alferez Sobral was searching the crew (SAR mission) of an Argentine Air force Canberra B Mk 62 which was shot down by British Sea Harriers. The Argentine Commander and six other men died. 18,29 

The first confirmed kill made by HMS Coventry was an Aérospatiale Puma helicopter of 601 Assault Helicopter Battalion, shot down by a Sea Dart over Choiseul Sound, killing its three man crew.

On May 25, 1982 ,the HMS Coventry was attacked then by FAA Argentine A-4 Skyhawks and was struck by three bombs just above the water line on the port side.(BBC News Falkland veteran meret Argentine ememy) Within 20 minutes it capsised. Nineteen of her crew were lost and a further thirty injured. The cross of nails was later salvaged by Royal Navy divers and presented to Coventry Cathedral. 

As the spiritual home of the Community of the Cross of Nails, St Michael's House has been launched as a dedicated space for skills-based learning and intellectual encounter alongside theological reflection and spiritual resources for reconciliation. St Michael's House is also a dedicated space for facilitating conversations around questions of identity, difference and conflict in the church and wider society. 

The Call of Dresden 

On the night of 13/14 February 1945, more than 4,500 tons of high explosives and incendiary devices were dropped on Dresden, capital of the German state of Saxony and known before the war as ‘Florence on the Elbe’. A terrible firestorm resulted, creating temperatures of up to 1000°C in parts of the city. Current estimates suggest that 35,000–40,000 people were killed; and at least eight square miles of the city were totally devastated. The areas of strategic and military significance, like the transport system, were left relatively untouched. The strategy of bombing German cities owed much to Arthur Harris, chief of Britain’s Bomber Command. Harris believed that ‘area bombing’ would erode the morale of the German population and hasten the end of the war; the earlier strategy of attacking economic and industrial targets had not proved very successful.

In 1992, a visit to Dresden by the Queen failed to satisfy the desire of some Germans for a statement of regret by Britain for the bombing. At the same time, a controversy arose over the decision to erect a statue to ‘Bomber’ Harris near Britain’s Ministry of Defence in London. 22 

Alan Russell, co-founder and Chairman of the Dresden Trust believes that, according to the canons of war existing in 1939, the Dresden raid was morally wrong and had something criminal about it. It was a war crime. ‘It wasn’t wrong to bomb Dresden, but it was wrong to bomb it in the manner in which we did. We deliberately bombed a historic city. I personally can’t justify it'. 

Some kind of atonement was needed a public recognition that Britain’s own moral record needed examination. In 1990, shortly after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a group of distinguished Dresdeners issued an international appeal now known as the ‘Call from Dresden’. They called for financial aid for the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), which had been destroyed in the bombing. 

The Frauenkirche project gave the Trust a material focus for its attempts to foster British-German reconciliation. Russell and his fellow trustees brought the history of Dresden and the needs of the Frauenkirche to the attention of the British public. They soon discovered that there were many people in the UK who loved German culture and wanted to contribute to a project that could enhance British-German relations. Almost £600,000 was raised in few years.

In all, more than 2,000 people and nearly 100 companies and charitable trusts contributed, and many more anonymously. Part of the money was used to finance a ‘British window’ in the new Frauenkirche; roughly 10 ach to sponsor particular stones around the reconstructed window. 6

Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), Dresden, Germany

Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), Dresden, Germany

The Frauenkirche is a famously beautiful baroque church built between 1726 and 1743, 
with a bell-shaped dome that rivalled those of St Peter’s in Rome and the Duomo in Florence.
When Russell talks of ‘atonement’ he means that people on different sides should be willing to recognise that things were done in the names of their countries that should not have been done even given the exigencies of war. ‘Nations must be able to look critically at what has been done in their names in order to have the right to examine what other countries have done.’

Reconciliation, too, is a central element in Russell’s vision; he calls it a :
profound, reflective, long-term process, requiring justice, freedom, forgiveness and love’. 

Aktion Suehnezeichen Friedensdienste (ASF)

In 1963 a group of young British volunteers went to Dresden, in East Germany, to help rebuild a hospital destroyed during the Allied bombing onslaught of February 1945.

Aktion Suehnezeichen Friedensdienste (ASF) was founded in 1958 by Lother Kreyssig, a member of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Confessing Church (Bekennende Kirche). (ASF) was first established in the UK in 1961 as Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP). 17

Hardy Kluge, former co-ordinator of ARSP in the UK described these early exchanges as ‘the first efforts of young people to produce symbols of reconciliation, to pave the way towards a better mutual understanding and, thus to a more beautiful world’. 
Between 1961 and 1996 more than 600 young Germans worked as ARSP volunteers in the UK, primarily in five British regions, which were socially and economically deprived. Volunteers worked at projects throughout London, at the Corrymeela reconciliation centre in Northern Ireland and built a social centre in Glasgow, amongst others.Since 2001 ARSP has been running a trilateral programme with volunteers from Poland and Germany. 

The French and German reconciliation 24 

On July 8th, 1962 Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Charles De Gaulle (both Roman Catholics) went to the Cathedral of Reims for a Mass. ¨Excellency, Chancellor Adenauer and myself come to your cathedral to seal the reconciliation of France and Germany, " said De Gaulle to the Archbishop of Rheims, Bishop Marty . Adenauer and De Gaulle sit together in the choir. Auxiliary Bishop George-Stanislas-Béjot assisted by Monsignor Lallement and the priest Lucien Hess celebrated the Mass of Reconciliation. Llalement was prisoner of war and Hess was tortured by the Gestapo and deported to Dachau.

Reaching out is good. A tender heart is still better. Peace is generated in the laboratory of love and minerals from the laboratory of justice and charity said the Archbishop facing the four thousand people who filled the cathdral and the French and German soldiers who had just paraded in the field of Mourmelon together for the first time in history. (Placid)

The 1963 Elysee Treaty marked a milestone for two countries that had fought three wars in 70 years. Since then, they've cooperated closely on economic and cultural issues. On January 2013 Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande marked 50 years of reconciliation with Cabinet, Parliament gatherings.

Final words 

In the case of Argentina we don´t need only a reconciliation among war veterans of both sides but a reconciliaton of its society as it has been very well depicted by Monsignore Giaquinta. 15 

Peace isn´t the absence of conflict, but the transformation from destructive tension into dynamic creativity, the turning of the competition that presupposes scarcity into the complementarity that assumes abundance, the emergence of thankfulness in place of resentment, and the retelling of a story that ceases to believe stray elements can or should be written out the script. Jesus´s path to resurrection lay through the cross, and our path is the same. What the scriptures teach us is that we can often be closer to the mystery of God in times of wilderness and exile than in the much-longed-for destination, and that Jesus´cross ultimately delivers us from the worst effects of our own.

The good news is that reconcilitation is the gospel. Every kind of ministry is ultimately a ministry of reconciliation and, when we carry the cross of reconciliation, we find the weight of glory is ultimately Christ´s alone. 33


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  32. Welby, Justin-Archbishop of Canterbury-The crooked straight path of reconciliation. The Lead-Episcopal café-
  33. Wells, Sam-The exasperating patience of God-Faith in Conflict, Coventry, Tuesday, 26th February 2013.