Monday 8 April 2019

2019-Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Coexistence


                                                  EDUARDO C.GERDING

                               Reconciliation, by Josefina Alys Hermes de Vasconcellos, at Coventry Cathedral (UK).


It is evident that many people confuse the term forgiveness. They presuppose that this involves sitting with the one who has caused us harm, talking and ending up embracing and kissing him. That happens because they confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. 8
 In understanding these profound experiences we should not expect perfection since we are dealing with an area of ​​human activity in which violence has been perpetrated. The sequel of it, by its nature, involves confusion, emotionality and irrationality in their behavior. 1
Forgiveness is an internal procedure in which the person who hurt us is not necessarily part of the process. By forgiving someone we work on our wound, we understand what happened to us, we rebuild a sense of security and let go of the grudge. The capacity to forgive depends on the perception of the offense, on the previous history, on the value system and on the conception of the life of the victim, as well as the attitude of the offender. 7
 You have to understand that when you forgive you are not doing it for the other but for yourself. The road to freedom from resentment is not so much to forgive the other (although it helps) as to love oneself .3
The health benefits of forgiving  are very evident.It is a well known fact that preserving resentment has a self-destructive effect. 13
Psychologists believe that people who hold grudges tend to see the world as all good or all bad (splitting) (a behavior that originates in childhood), other times they victimize themselves, there is a hormonal imbalance (with increase in cortisol and decrease in oxytocin) and a lack of tools to resolve the conflict. It helps a lot to control this grudge by putting ourselves in the other´s  shoes. 2
 Forgiveness can have positive psychological effects for the victim: not living in torment, shaking off the yoke of the past, improving health, reconciling with oneself and recovering inner peace.

In turn, the victim's request for forgiveness from the victim requires recognition of the damage done, repentance, compassion with the victim and request for indulgence, as well as some type of reparation. 7 Obviously, it is easier to forgive someone who has already passed away or whom we will not see anymore.
Simple and plain forgiveness is one in which the victim freely forgives the aggressor not being the consequence of any previous arrangement. But offering forgiveness is at the same time condemning the act and accusing the aggressor. Accepting forgiveness is at the same time admitting the fact and accepting guilt. In this way, forgiveness is not acceptance but tolerance of the other. 9

Forgiveness and memory 8

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A scarred memory is not an erased memory. Forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new form of memory. Our memory of the past thus becomes a hope for our future.

Conscripts and Officers

Referring to the First World War, Sánchez Menchero says: To a large extent, accidents have been the cause of many misfortunes, due to the clumsiness of the military high command, the lack of squads or the imperfections of new technologies.

During the Great War, fear settled in millions of soldiers. For the most part, these recruits would depend more on their fate than on the military strategies of their drivers to get rid of bullets, grenades and howitzers. 13

"Time does not count because all eternity condenses in a single instant" as the young Italian infant Vincenzo D`Aquila managed to describe before being locked up in the psychiatric hospital in Siena. 13

In 1984, Lewis B. Smedes wrote a book called Forgiveness and Forgetting that is seen as a catalyst for modern research on forgiveness.

Asking for forgiveness involves three steps: 1) I did something wrong, 
2) I see how it has impacted you and I am very sorry and 3) Since it is my responsibility: What can I do to make you feel better?

Shame and guilt

Lu notes that shame and guilt in the defeated sector (Japan 1945), although it has a transforming potential, is a double-edged sword because threatening old identities, values ​​and beliefs can provoke reactive and violent defensive responses. 10

The right of not forgiving

The South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu Nobel Peace Prize, in his book No Future Without Forgiveness (1999), emphasizes from the religious point of view and specifically Christian the need for forgiveness. 1

However, it has been criticized by Susan Dwyer PhD because the title of the book implies that forgiving the aggressor is a requirement for a future peace. It is like demanding a mandatory reconciliation. If we see it differently we can come to accept that reconciliation is a psychologically possible process while forgiveness is not. 6

Colin Parry is a Briton whose 11-year-old son was killed by a bomb laid by
 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1994. Parry founded an NGO dedicated
 to British-Irish reconciliation. Colin Parry said: I will never forget those who
 killed my son but I am totally committed to the process of reconciliation.
 In this way, he established his right not to forgive but to be reconciled.
The death of a child is out of the natural order because usually it is the
 parents who die first. Parents may feel a sense of guilt and a sense of injustice
 that defies their spiritual beliefs. 5
Rogers et al have studied the long-term effects on the adjustment of parents
 who have lost a child- 11
If we can separate forgiveness from reconciliation we can begin to define
 in a more realistic way the process of reconciliation not by making it 
dependent on peace and love or immediate forgiveness. In this way we 
draw the most serious objections from the participants. 6
The reconciliation
Reconciliation on the other hand is an internal interpersonal process where
 you dialogue with the aggressor about what happened to them, exchange stories
, express their wounds, listen to the other's repentance and begin to rebuild
 trust. Reconciliation is a much more complicated process that includes
 forgiveness but goes beyond it. 8
The Manual of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral 
Assistance (IDEA) defines reconciliation as a process through which society
 moves from a divided past to a shared future and also as a process that 
redesigns relationships. 1
Johan Galtung admits that reconciliation is a subject of deep psychological
, sociological, theological, philosophical and human roots and nobody really 
knows how to achieve it. 1
Reconciliation requires changes in our aspirations and feelings and perhaps
 in our beliefs. Only one person is required to forgive while two or more people are required to reconcile.
We should not exaggerate the expectations of reconciliation by seeking 
harmonious coexistence with the old adversary. It is one thing to achieve a
 coherent historical story together and another to come to love whoever 
might have wanted to kill us.

Reconciliation and democracy
Reconciliation is not only for those who have suffered violence directly but
 also for the community that demands a questioning of the attitudes, prejudices
 and stereotypes elaborated on "the enemy".
Reconciliation is a necessary element for the long-term survival of 
democracy. Relations based on distrust, suspicion, fear and accusations end 
up destroying any political system based on human rights and democratic
Since the end of the Cold War, the reconstruction of post-conflict processes
 has been based on three interrelated mechanisms. The first is linked to the 
promotion of peace. The second deals with the conflict itself and the third is
 linked to what is called transitional justice, which includes legal and social
 justice. The latter involves memory, truth, healing, protection of human 
rights, reparation and reconciliation. 9
Nelson Mandela said: Instead of hatred and revenge we choose
 reconciliation and the reconstruction of a country.
To be able to move forward in reconciliation
Valérie Rosoux of the University of Louvain (Belgium) says that in 
order to move forward on the issue of reconciliation there are two 
indicators that deserve special attention: 1) What are the concrete changes
 observed in the institutions in common, political cooperation? and 
economic or specific entities dedicated to reconciliation? 2) Refers to the
 narrative of the past. The old adversaries have put the narration of the
 past in a manageable perspective that does not hinder a cooperative 
relationship? To answer this question, it is fundamental to observe the 
plurality of narratives emphasized by the protagonists. Is there an overlap 
between your narratives or are they totally different stories? Are they divergent
 or incompatible? 12
                                                   (Rosoux, Valérie-Post-War reconciliation-in search of a typology)

The coexistence
Political reconciliation is something less profound, less personal and
 more pragmatic. It does not require forgiveness or harmonious states, 
it is what is called a peaceful coexistence. Asking victims to coexist with 
their former adversaries has fewer implications than asking them to
 recognize them; no forgiveness or integration is required. It only suggests 
respecting the right to occupy the same space without violence.
Hizkias Assefa comments that reconciliation requires the transformation 
of unjust relationships to more just situations. In reconciliation, justice
 is valued that restores communities and not the justice that destroys them .1
Structures of the peace process 1
1. Structural initiatives: Those that achieve peace through institutional 
changes. They are designed, negotiated and implemented in the political arena.
2. Cultural initiatives; They are those that operate at the community level 
seeking reconciliation.
Historical examples of reconciliation
1.      Finnish civil war
The theme of forgiveness and reconciliation is not a theoretical exercise but
 is based on world experiences. In Finland there was a civil war from 
June 27 to May 15, 1918. There were 36,000 deaths, of which 9700 were
 executions and 13,400 were due to concentration camps. This war caused
 15,000 orphaned children.
Political reconciliation began immediately after the war but cultural
 and social reconciliation took longer. This was very well described in the
 book Under the North Star of Väinö Linna published in 1959.
In those critical moments stood out an extraordinary woman named
 Miina Sillanpää, one of the first to vote in Parliament in 1907 and who
 built bridges between the opposition parties. During the war, Sillanpää set out 
to assist orphaned children.
In his speech on January 1, 2018, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said, 
"It took us decades to believe in democracy," but that is how participatory
 patriotism was born. One of the lessons of the Civil War was that 
"diversity exists, people of different backgrounds, convictions and goals 
and we have the right to disagree and this is something that must be
 respected even though we think differently". 4

2.    The Civil War of Sierra Leone (1991-2002)

The Civil War began on March 23, 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the National Patriotic Front of Liberia Charles Taylor (NPFL) intervened in Sierra Leone to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government . This war lasted 11 years and left 50,000 dead. There was violence between the neighbors themselves and the rebel groups recruited children to be soldiers. The reconciliation process was done through forums where the victims could describe the violence suffered and the perpetrators asked for forgiveness for their actions. 14

3.    Reconciliation between United States and Japan

After the Second World War neither side was interested in a reconciliation. There was an extraordinary person who was the Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. It is interesting because in Japanese Kishi means "he who tries to keep a foot on both banks of the river". There were furious demonstrations against the new treaty that included direct US participation if Japan was attacked.
Japan was exempted from paying maintenance (US $ 30 million / year) of US troops on the island. From an economic interest Japan shook itself out of the apathy of defeat and with hard work and enthusiasm again captured the external markets. Kishi moved with pragmatism not pro-Americanism realizing that cooperation benefited them in defense and trade. By 1980, Japan had the second largest economy in the world and became a US economic adversary. Everyone thought that reconciliation would be destroyed.
It was necessary to review the historical past with the antecedent nothing less than two atomic bombs. Then President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima and, seven months later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor. The reconciliation remains firm although the moral issue of having thrown the two atomic bombs has not yet been resolved. 17 Regarding the relationship between the Armed Forces of the two countries there is an icon that unites them: Iwo Jima. Between February 19 and March 26, 1945 the Japanese garrison (Army and Navy) of 20,000 men faced 60,000 US Marines.
After 36 days of mortal combat under the command of Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the garrison was practically obliterated but, in spite of his victory, the US Marines suffered more casualties than the Japanese garrison. That generated a great mutual respect and an empathy that is consolidated every year in December when the third-year cadets of the National Defense Academy go to train at Iwo Jima. This has been called the Gettysburg of the Pacific. 15


 It is interesting to note that on February 2, 1825, the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation was signed between the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata and His Britannic Majesty 16 . In Art 1 we read:  There will be perpetual friendship between the Dominions, and Subjects, their Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata and their inhabitants. We should also remember that Great Britain recognized our independence in 1823 while Spain did it in 1860. With this I want to emphasize that the historical ties that unite the two countries are very old although some people may regret so. We must also remember Lord Palmerston´s pragmatic statement : England has no permanent friends or permanent enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and our obligation is to monitor them.

                                                               Henry John Temple, 3.er viscount Palmerston KG GCB PC

I had a philosophy professor who always told us that questions were more important than answers. In the Malvinas issue, which has been going on for 37 years and, without giving up our claims, we have to ask ourselves several questions at an individual and institutional level .: -If there was something to forgive, did I forgive? -What did I do for reconciliation? Did I help the process or am I throwing  more fuel on the fire? Do I demean the adversary through historical or cultural comments? Do I apply empathy? –Am I open to dialogue or I find myself in a sound cone? A silence imposed on me or perhaps self-imposed ? - Am I leaving this problem to future generations? –According to the historical world experience, what is the most convenient way for our countries and their institutions?


1-Bloomfield, David-On good terms: Clarifying reconciliation- Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management- http://www.berghof-center.org/
2-Borchard, Therese-8 Tips to Stop Holding a Grudge-PsychCentral-8 Jul 2018.
3-Colier, Nancy-Why we hold grudges, and how to let them go-Psychology-Mar 4, 2015.
4-Cord, David-How Finland found a road to reconciliation after the civil war of 1918-This is Finland.
5-Doka,Kenneth J.-Grieving the death of an adult child-Psychology Today-Oct 26, 2016.
6-Dwyer, Susan, 2003: “Reconciliation for Realists,” in: Carol AL Prager and Trudy Govier (eds.): Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts. Waterloo, Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, pp. 91-110. The Economist, “A Flawed Charter,” 8 October 2005, page 48.

7-Echeburúa, Enrique-El valor psicológico del perdón en las víctimas y en los ofensores-Eguzkilore-Nº27-San Sebastian 2013.

8-Howes, Ryan PhD- Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation-Forgiveness fact and fiction-  Psychology Today-Mar 31st, 2013.
9-Kabwete, Charles Mulinda-Towards justice and reconciliation in post-conflict countries-Meaningful concepts and possible realities-July 31, 2018.Accord 25-
10-Lu, Catherine- Shame, Guilt and Reconciliation after War-European Journal of Social Theory-August 1, 2008.
11-Rogers, Catherine y col-Long-Term Effects of the Death of a Child on Parents’ Adjustment in Midlife-J Fam Psychol. 2008 Apr; 22(2): 203–211.
12-Rosoux, Valérie-Post-War reconciliation-in search of a typology-
13-Sánchez Menchero, Mauricio - Las consecuencias de la guerra en las emociones y la salud mental. Una historia de la psicopatología y medicalización en los frentes bélicos de Occidente (1914-1975)-Revista de Estudios Sociales. Octubre 2017.
 14-Saxsena, Roheeni- Reconciliation after a civil war may come at the expense of mental health-ArsTechnica.

15-Tohmatsu, Haruo- The 'Gettysburg in the Pacific' and Japan-U.S. reconciliation- The Japan Times-Opinion-

16- Tratado de amistad, comercio y navegación con Gran Bretaña.

17-Waxman.Olivia B.- How the U.S. and Japan Became Allies Even After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, TIME, August 6th, 2018