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On Reconciliation

By Samia Khoury

In childhood, we are trained to say “sorry” whenever we believe we hurt someone. Even if we do not really think it is our fault, the apology is supposed to have great meaning to the other person, and to make us feel better. Reconciliation is part of life, for in any society one cannot live in a state of alienation and still be happy and enjoy peace and security.

However, the scriptural vision of reconciliation is one thing, and the practice of reconciliation amongst hostile parties is another. As a Palestinian Christian, I ponder over the following biblical text and wonder about the meaning of the verses in real life. What is Christ telling us here and now and how do we deal with the reality of life in a region which has suffered from wars and violence for too long?

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was  reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them, and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5:18)

It would be impossible for me to talk about reconciliation outside of my reality. Hostilities between Israelis and Arabs have been going on for decades, and my pre-1948 childhood, when we enjoyed living side-by-side in peace with our Jewish neighbors, are a distant memory.

Ever since the United Nations passed a resolution in 1947 to partition Palestine into Jewish (55%) and Arab (45%) states, a grave injustice prevailed. It is the root cause of the subsequent hostilities. However, despite the failure of countless peace initiatives, we still hope it is possible. 

Justice, peace, and reconciliation are all part of the same formula. You cannot have one without the others, and each has the others as prerequisites. You cannot have reconciliation without peace, and you cannot have peace without justice. The wrong has to be righted for justice to prevail, and the cause of animosity has to be removed so that the healing process will lead to reconciliation.

Sometimes absolute justice can create another injustice, so often people have to compromise for a relative justice, provided an admittance of the wrong is made clearly and forthrightly. Human nature is normally to forgive and reciprocate positively to a plea for forgiveness. This cleansing of the conscience should be the first step in the process of justice, peace, and reconciliation.

Samia Khoury lives in East Jerusalem, Palestine, and is a member of the steering committee of the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center.

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