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Posted May 25, 2004

Book: Forgiveness in International Politics: An Alternative Road to Peace
Authors: William Bole, Drew Christiansen, S.J., Robert T. Hennemeyer
United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC, pp. 208

An Excerpt from Introduction:

I am pleased to note that in these pages, various religious and civil voices have been gathered together to argue for forgiveness as a core value, a realistic if unexpected strategy in the arena of international conflict and diplomacy. Among it contributions, Forgiveness in International Politics offers a realistic assessment of the role of religion in both nurturing peace and perpetuating conflicts. This historical ambiguity is constantly contentious, but this book helps us move beyond theoretical debates by examining case studies of explicitly religious initiatives on behalf of dialogue and reconciliation. The examples confirm my conviction that religion can be a force for peace, a distinct part of the solution to intergroup conflict. Although religion can be usurped or perverted by people who have no desire for peace, it can also change lives for the good.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Human beings have been settling scores for all of recorded history. Yet while vengeance and retribution are ancient themes in international affairs, since the dissolution of the Cold War these and other unforgiving ways have found a new and permissive environment. In this geopolitical atmosphere, the nature of conflict itself has shifted. Scrimmages in the superpower struggle, driven by the material interests of conventional politics and ideology, have given way to conflicts entangled in the intangibles of culture, identity, ethnicity, and religion. These new spirals of conflict, often rooted in historic animosities, have helped to unleash some old forces of unforgiveness.

For many in the Western world, the terrorist challenge has only recently brought home the hard reality of identity-based violence. For nearly a decade, however, practitioners exploring forgiveness as a strategy have stressed the significance of this new order of antagonism. With the passing of East-West rivalry, most conflicts “will derive from clashes of communal identity, whether on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion,” Douglas M. Johnston predicted in the early 1990s. “Such disputes tend to occur at the fault lines between rival nationalities or in situations where societies are suffering from the strains of economic competition and rising expectations. These are the most intractable sources of conflict, and they are the sources with which conventional diplomacy is least suited to deal. At the time, Johnston — a former nuclear submarine commander who now conducts faith-based conflict resolution — was writing against the backdrop of inter-ethnic hostilities, including the conflicts in the Balkans. Today, his observation applies just as freshly to extreme cultural-religious clashes that have given rise to violence and terror.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Forgiveness: A Radical New Factor

Chapter 1. The Forces of Unforgiveness

Chapter 2. Why Forgiveness?

Chapter 3. Understanding Forgiveness in Politics

Chapter 4. Political Forgiveness: Acts and Agents

Chapter 5. Social Truth and Personal Healing: Projects of Forgiveness

Chapter 6. Religious Communities: Compromised but Capable

Chapter 7. Religious Intervention: The “Outsider-Neutral Parties

Chapter 8. Interlude: Religion, Culture, and Forgiveness

Conclusion: Lessons Learned

Appendix: Some Organizational Resources