Justice, reconciliation, coexistence, and peace are concepts that often coincide, thus it is important for practitioners and academics to gain further understanding of their relationships and operation. Reconciliation can be understood as a journey that has no definitive end. Through mutual intent, dialogue, and togetherness, adversaries (or victims and perpetrators) can transform relations towards peaceful coexistence with a shared vision of the past and future. Methodologies within this transformation vary, and can include techniques with spiritual, cultural, religious, or political influences. Reconciliation efforts must have a long-term perspective, whereby patterns of coexistence and construct peaceful relationships and satisfy multiple understandings of justice.Conceptualizing reconciliation from a scientific perspective is challenging because participants are diving into the unknown with each new experience. As the school of post-positivism explains, there are always going to be errors in measurements and theories and ideas will constantly develop. Further, the school of anti-positivism demonstrates how science cannot explain all, especially with complex human behavior and cultural differences.
It can be useful to examine past examples to learn how approaches succeed or fail in existing accommodations. Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC; 2001-2003) examined the human rights abuses of the internal armed conflict of 1980-2000. During this process the Peruvian state, the Shining Path, and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement were investigated and prosecuted accordingly to fulfil a state-defined concept of justice. The TRC is widely considered successful, especially in its ability to prosecute and imprison the former President Alberto Fujimori. Further, it created a Council on Reparations, which contributed to both individual victims and community development projects which were intended to restore basic human needs. The TRC was a success symbolically in its use of punishments, recording of multiple truths, and reparations, but still needs to broaden its scope to incorporate dialogue and emotional or spiritual transformation. For example, some issues such as the persistence of sexual and domestic violence are not addressed in the TRC but weaken the coexistence accomodations and construction of positive peace. Moving forward, it would be beneficial for Peru to adopt a multidisciplinary approach that can balance grassroots programs and dialogues with existing state-level efforts. Since there is much we do not know yet about the reconciliation process, it would be helpful to thoroughly record the progress. While this scientific approach is necessary, it will ultimately exclude private emotions and spiritual journeys that are at the core of reconciliation and coexistence.
I try to envision my potential role in a given reconciliation process. Acknowledging the vast repertoire of techniques, I wonder who is deciding upon the most appropriate approach(es). While the practitioner may have the toolkit and training on certain methods, the participants are most aware of their personal emotions, cultural context, and desired end goal. Under those circumstances, who is best suited to design a long-term multidimensional approach to reconciliation?
It is so important for individuals to publicly state their definitions of peace, justice, and reconciliation alongside their peers and adversaries. This is another pre-reconciliation thought: if conceptualizations of what is justice differ significantly, how can we merge these ideas into one frame?
Often times, the state-level is so focused on the apology, and meanwhile the public’s reaction does not receive a listening ear. An apology only satisfies one half of a transforming relationship. At least an open mind to forgiveness provides a space whereby a peaceful coexistence can be constructed as a team.
We must not underestimate the intersections between reconciliation, coexistence, peace, and justice. It is important to recall the existence of these understandings and how they differ from one another. Further, the multidisciplinary approach must acknowledge scientific and experimental fields in order to strengthen and adapt reconciliation efforts in the long term.