1. I negoziati di pace, generalmente, sono incentrati sulle dimensioni politica ed economica. Quale è la Sua percezione della necessità di toccare aspetti più profondi e genuini della riconciliazione e come si può ottenere questo?
Without a doubt, the field of international conflict resolution needs a deeper, human-centered approach to both finding a sustainable resolution of conflict through political negotiations, as well as to ways to reconcile after the agreements have been signed. I am making a distinction between the negotiation phase of conflict resolution and what I think of as the “post-conflict” phase of reconciliation.What has become clear to me in my work in international conflict is that the legal and binding measures that are taken to try to fulfill a sense of justice for those who have suffered devastating losses from years of protracted conflict is not enough. Negotiations that settle issues of borders, power-sharing arrangement, refugees, distribution of resources and other objective political matters often do not address the subjective, human dimensions of the conflict—injuries that are psychological in nature that cannot be healed through political means. Even if perpetrators of violence are brought to traditional justice by being sentenced for years for the crimes they committed, the wounds of the victims of those crimes are still open and the suffering brought on by their loss can go on indefinitely. Without a process—one that is explicitly designed for deep emotional healing—it is unlikely that they will be able to put the past to rest.Having facilitated countless dialogues between warring parties in many parts of the world, I have come to the realization that we have failed to address this significant emotional aspect of the human experience of conflict. After years of observing parties in conflict and their inability to sign on to agreements—agreements that appear to address the political interests of all parties—I have concluded that it is imperative for the field to address this missing link. I have come to call the missing link, dignity violations. Using the language of dignity, people feel freer to talk about these underlying emotional injuries that keep conflict alive. By calling these injuries dignity violations, people feel free to discuss them. On the other hand, if I were to say to a group, “tell me a time that you felt emotionally injured by the other side,” no one would raise their hand. Asking people to discuss ways in which they felt their dignity was violated, everyone has a story. The language of dignity allows the “undiscussable” to be brought to the table.To conclude this question, what I think we need are processes that address the human wounds to our dignity—ways to restore humanity to relationships so that people can put the past to rest, and move on with their lives. Failure to address this dimension in a reconciliation process leaves relationships vulnerable to re-traumatization, where the impulse to dehumanize the other still remains the default reaction.Can forgiveness achieve this restoration of human dignity? Yes, it is one process, but my experience tells me it is not the only one. I have argued elsewhere that by creating a dignified environment where both parties are able to extend dignity to one another, deep reconciliation can occur.
2. Quali sono le condizioni nelle quali, al di là dell’assicurare gli interessi della parti in conflitto, può essere stabilito un processo incentrato su un senso di equità e dignità?
In my paper, “Reconciling with Dignity” I have elaborated several conditions that appear to be necessary (but perhaps not sufficient) to enable reconciliation. I had written the paper after working with the BBC and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on a television series in Northern Ireland entitled, Facing the Truth, where we brought victims and perpetrators of the conflict together for face to face encounters. I wrote the article in order to describe a remarkable process that occurred between a British police officer who was nearly killed by an IRA man. They had not seen one another for over 30 years, and agreed to sit together in an attempt to “put the past to rest.” At the end of their day-long session, the two men experienced a remarkable reconciliation. What were those conditions that made it possible for them to reconcile? Below is an excerpt from the paper that sheds light on the question.What Happened?As if what had occurred during this day-long encounter between the two men were not enough, they and their families went into Belfast that night and had dinner together. And they have seen each other many times since.I wondered what had happened between these two men to make their extraordinary reconciliation possible. What were the dynamics that enabled them to cross the divide from human disconnection to connection? It had nothing to do with forgiveness; it was never asked for or given. But what did happen was equally as powerful: they honored each other’s dignity and in so doing, strengthened their own.In no small way, the environment that was created by the BBC and the facilitation team significantly contributed to their reconciliation. The effect of the presence of a trusted, moral authority—Archbishop Tutu—cannot be understated. His dignity, consistency, and uncommon compassion created the nurturing, non-judgmental environment necessary for this difficult work. We created a place that set the stage for the dignity that the two men bestowed upon one another.In what ways did they honor each other’s dignity? First, they both agreed that sitting down together was worthy of their time and attention; that was the initial step. How common is it to withdraw from those with whom we have been in conflict, and refuse to talk to them?Second, they carefully listened to one another without interrupting or challenging each other’s story; they listened to seek understanding. How often do we listen to our adversaries only to one-up them or to prepare our attack on what they have said?Third, they acknowledged and recognized what the other had been through. How many times have we stared expressionless at the person whom we have injured in the heat of a conflict and felt nothing if not justified?Fourth, they honored and acknowledged each other’s integrity and in so doing, created a bond between them. By identifying with each other’s experience, they could no longer dehumanize one another, excluding the other from their moral communities. Our conflict-driven minds create good guys and bad guys, and when under conflict’s distorting influence, we rarely see ourselves as anything but good. They expanded their understanding by experiencing each other’s humanity. As Gunther Grasse points out, “truth exists nearly always in the plural.” And because they came to understand each other’s reality, the truth they finally uncovered was bigger than their separate stories. This uncommon truth revealed itself with dignity: they were both victims; caught up in a dysfunctional system crying out for change.By honoring each other’s dignity through careful listening, a desire to understand each others’ experience, to identify with—as a human being—the choices our adversary makes, requires letting go of our death grip on the need to be right.What it takes to decide to “let go” is something deeply personal, if not spiritual. The Archbishop, when asked to explain the magic that took place between the two men, immediately held his hands up wide above his head, looked up to the sky, smiled, and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”Even though it is difficult to identify exactly what contributed to their reconciliation, I would like to attempt to outline some other factors, besides extending dignity to one another, that might have contributed to the positive outcome of not only Ronnie and Malcolm’s encounter, but for the other participants in the program as well. I am reluctant to suggest that these are universal truths, but instead, reflections on what appeared to contribute to the many positive outcomes that Facing the Truth enabled.
Creating the Conditions for Reconciliation
These conditions that were set in place while making Facing the Truth: creating the space for acknowledgment, nurturing, control, and vulnerability were all designed to promote and restore human dignity. The process we created stayed focused on the human dimension and the human cost of the 30 plus years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland. While we did not want to discuss the political issues, we did acknowledge the role politics played in creating the conditions for the conflict—the inequality, the discrimination, and unjust policies. In fact, inequality, discrimination, and injustice are violent acts in and of themselves. The injuries that they create are as damaging as a gunshot wound. For this reason, it was important that the perpetrators described the disempowering and humiliating environment in which they grew up. It was not meant to justify their violent behavior, but to re-create the tableau in which the events emerged and took place.We wanted to showcase the human suffering—in all of its forms—that violent and unjust political environments create. We wanted to hold it up for full viewing—every aspect and every angle of it. And we wanted to make it personal. Because the truth of the matter is that the human suffering these conflicts create rarely gets acknowledged and addressed. In fact, the emotional distress that people suffer is often ignored, diminished, and even trivialized at the political level. And ironically, it is just these kinds of unprocessed losses and psychological traumas that maintain the divide between warring communities, even after a peace agreement is signed.We wanted to dignify their suffering by giving it the attention it needed in order to put it to rest. We wanted to give them a chance to be heard, seen, recognized and understood. We wanted to give them control by letting them say whatever they wanted to each other. We wanted to create a sense of possibility for both communities in N. Ireland—to demonstrate what a healing process looked like so that they could imagine a future together, living along side one another, in dignity rather than indignity.We were looking to create a process that was humane and non-judgmental. We did not want to be the arbiter of truth; we wanted to enable it to emerge. We wanted the perpetrators to hear, in the victims’ own words, what the loss of their loved one felt like: the shock, the horror, the disbelief, and the rage; and what it felt like to miss someone so profoundly. And for those victims who survived an attack, we wanted to give them the chance to speak directly to the men who came so close to taking their lives. We wanted the victims and families to be able to ask questions of the perpetrators—questions that were haunting them since the death of their loved ones. We wanted to create the conditions for every aspect of the truth to be told.And for the perpetrators, in addition to telling their background stories, we wanted to give them an opportunity to come face to face with the people whose lives they so deeply affected. We wanted to give them a chance to see their victims as normal human beings living with abnormal loss. We wanted to humanize their politicized actions by having them look into the faces of those whose suffering they created.All of the perpetrators said that they had to dehumanize their victims in order to carry out the killings. What they failed to point out was that they de-humanized themselves in the process: they had to disconnect from the part of themselves that felt the horror of taking someone’s life. We wanted to create the conditions for them to feel the effects of their actions. And ironically, the victims were the ones who helped them do that. Having to listen to the details of the heartbreaking victims’ stories and all the suffering their actions created was an opportunity for them to experience the feeling of what they did. It was an unintended gift the victims gave them.Because when the feeling returns, perpetrators have an opportunity to re-connect with their full humanity—what I believe true healing is about. They have a chance to re-integrate all aspects of what it means to be human—the capacity to love and to hate, to connect with others and to violently disconnect from them. When one is a member of a paramilitary organization, part of one’s job is to kill. According to the perpetrators, it is necessary to disconnect from the targeted enemy as a human being. And it is also necessary to disconnect from one’s own humanness—from the feeling that results from taking someone’s life. If one is connected to one’s own full humanity, one feels the pain one inflicts on others. It is what we call remorse; maybe even shame. And if healing is the goal, then one must reconnect to those painful feelings, integrating them into one’s self-image. And if reconciliation is the goal, then both the victim and the perpetrator need to reconnect to each other through feeling one another’s loss.More happened during the encounters than my mind is capable of describing. But what I can say is that what I experienced reassured me that with the right conditions, it is possible for people who have suffered unspeakable losses in violent conflicts to heal and reconcile with one another.
3. Quanto il perdono è essenziale alla dimensione della riconciliazione? Alla radice della Sua cultura politica e/o della Sua fede religiosa quali sono i principi che implicano o escludono il perdono? Quali versi o detti che fanno parte del Suo personale patrimonio spirituale possono, nella sua opinione, avere un significato universale
As I have argued above, the reconciliation process we experienced did not require forgiveness. “Reconciling with dignity” is a different approach than forgiveness. It assumes that both sides are in need of understanding—that we have both contributed to the breakdown of the relationship, that both played a role, recognizing that the role may not be equal. That said, I believe that when forgiveness comes about in a genuine way—when it is not forced upon people—it can be a powerful tool for reconciliation. My colleague, Father Leonel Navarez from Bogota, Colombia, has developed a methodology that helps people prepare themselves for forgiveness. At the end of the process, people decide for themselves if they wish to forgive their perpetrators. I believe that there is great danger in forcing people into any kind of process that does not feel genuine to them, or that they are not ready for. As I have argued in another paper, people need time to grieve and accept their loss before moving toward forgiveness. There is nothing more profound and healing than genuine forgiveness, but false forgiveness can create more harm than good.
4. Il perdono richiede qualche forma di pentimento da parte di coloro a cui il perdono viene offerto? Il perdono ha condizioni o è senza condizioni?
I am not an expert in the process of forgiveness, but my guess is that some people need repentance and some do not. I don’t believe we can say one way or the other what is required. It is psychologically a complex process, and it would seem to depend on where an individual is in her or his own emotional development.
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