A Theological Examination of Reconciliation Within a Political Context: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa
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Abstract1. During the past twenty years the world saw the development of the phenomenon of “Truth and Reconciliation Commissions” as an approach to resolve fractures within communities and nations, especially after periods of civil unrest, civil war, and other forms of violence and tension. Two basic questions emerge: What is reconciliation, and how does a society know that reconciliation has been accomplished? 2. Insights of theological ethics can provide a source for examination of the process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (TRC). Response to the questions may provide a view of the process to clarify the impact of the TRC on reconciliation in South Africa. 3. The TRC was a political creation, established through negotiations for an end to conflict that extended over decades. To provide insight into complex problems relating to reconciliation, Section II presents a history of the influences in South Africa relevant to apartheid and those conflicts. 4. Section III covers the formation and operation of the TRC, including participation of Christian leadership under Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others. 5. Section IV presents the “Cradock Four” case study. 6. Ubuntu is a decidedly African understanding of community. Christian ubuntu is a deeper understanding of community where individuals are seen as made in the image of God and the community as the kingdom of God. Section V presents and expands these concepts, unfamiliar to the western world. Concepts of Bernard Lonergan that guided examination of the material are included. 7. The conclusion, Section VI, presents the examination of the TRC and case study in light of the understanding of Christian ubuntu and the methods of Lonergan. The conclusions shift the focus of the original questions to suggest reconciliation as a process rather than a solution concluding a process. Success or decline within reconciliation is subject to continuing examination and evaluation. On earth the kingdom of God strives for unity with God and others. Glimpses of what unity might look like are in the work. Reconciliation also has an already-but-not-yet quality that moves those in conflict closer to unity and harmony.
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