Reconciliation and the Search for a Shared Moral Landscape – An exploration based upon a study of Northern Ireland and South Africa

Detta är en avhandling från A printed version will be published by Peter Lang, GmbH, Europaeischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, later in the year 2001

Sammanfattning: In Northern Ireland and South Africa obstacles to reconciliation were found in these elements of a “moral landscape”: – Experiences of trauma, separation and inequalities, – Divergent views of the conflict and of “the other”, – Opposing identifications and loyalties, – Norms for interaction, – Contestant interpretations of values such as “peace” and “justice”. This study describes how these obstacles have been addressed in: 1) Efforts, particularly by ecumenical groups, to bridge the Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland. 2) The work of, and debates surrounding, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On the basis of these dialogues in adverse circumstances, this study suggests some prerequisites for “emancipatory conversations” – a central question in the search for a global ethics. Ecumenical groups in Northern Ireland pursued a middle road between Unionism and Nationalism, focused on relationships between Catholics and Protestants, and stressed their shared responsibility. In South Africa there was more stress on the relationship between individual victims and perpetrators, on the responsibility of one group (i.e. whites) to repent, and on redistribution and material reparations as part of reconciliation. Initiatives for reconciliation in both contexts stressed dialogue, tolerance and non-violence. They were inspired by the notion of every person being created in God’s image and by a supreme loyalty to the God of all people. Particular attention was given to “storysharing”, i.e. the sharing of personal experiences of the conflict, rather than debating various viewpoints. Prerequisites for being able both to speak and to listen to “the other side” were: safety; equality of power; recognition of the humanity of “the other” and of one’s own human dignity; preparedness for critical self-examination; concern with one’s adversary’s welfare, and that the participants had achieved a sense of security in their own identities and some healing from their own traumas. A commitment to each other and the shared place of residence could serve as a basis for common ground, as could similar experiences of trauma, of parenthood, and (in Northern Ireland) of social class. Certain dilemmas were identified, such as what safety needs to prioritise, what stories to emphasise in the official discourse, and seeking harmony versus struggling to change inequalities.

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