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An Analysis of the Field of Spirituality, Religion, and Health, by David J. Hufford | Metanexus

USA Thur. Cinemax Mon. CMT Sun. CMT Sat. FX Thur. Murphy , Philpott Here, the task is to articulate an account of improved relationships that satisfies a normative standard for the relationship in question, a standard that may not have been previously realized in practice. Each of the categories along which relationships might improve behavior, beliefs, attitudes or emotions admits of degree.

For example, in the aftermath of a dispute between friends, the resumption of basic respect is a lower degree of emotional restoration than the resumption of love and trust. In the aftermath of bloody civil war, the resumption of cooperation between two parties may be described as a greater change in behavior than their mere peaceful coexistence. Maximal forms of political reconciliation are typically identified as either civic friendship May , forgiveness Tutu , or political or national unity for an overview of such conceptions see Allen Some scholars attempt to fix the definition of reconciliation for a particular relational context by looking to the nature of the relationship in question.

For example, it may not make sense to talk about spouses as reconciled unless there is a reestablishment of trust, love and intimacy. Spouses may get over their anger and resentment. They may cooperate successfully in raising their children together. Similarly, in order to define what is necessary for the reconciliation of parties as members of a moral community Radzik , a political community C. Murphy , or the international community Barry , we might look to the ideals that appropriately define those relationships. In the South African debate, some commentators linked their conception of reconciliation to the moral value of ubuntu Tutu , Krog The debate about the nature of political reconciliation reflects a concern, not only with ideals of political relationship, but also with non-ideal facts about societies torn apart by injustice or violence.

For example, Bhargava defends a weak conception of reconciliation by emphasizing how significant an achievement peaceful coexistence can be in the aftermath of atrocities. He worries that advocating the pursuit of stronger forms of reconciliation will require that the past be forgotten, leaving the victims to absorb the costs of that past without protest. In contrast, C. Murphy argues that minimal versions should be rejected, for they suggest that relationships have been repaired and reconciliation achieved too quickly.

A more robust notion of political reconciliation highlights the profound impact of conflict and repression on political interaction, and draws attention to the long-term and complex changes the establishment of a just peace among those formerly in conflict demands. Tutu suggests that forgiveness may be necessary for achieving a peaceful and stable political community. Others argue that efforts at reconciliation should aim somewhere between the extremes of a mere cessation of aggression and full-fledged forgiveness.

Moellendorf , for example, claims that reconciliation involves former enemies coming to see each other as fellow citizens, who should be treated as equals. Gutmann and Thompson argue political reconciliation is oriented towards the cultivation of democratic reciprocity in interaction, which is a willingness to seek common ground with fellow citizens on matters of public policy.

Another view, which emerges specifically out of the literature on political reconciliation, insists that reconciliation cannot be defined pre-politically Schaap That is, the proper standards for reconciliation within a particular post-conflict society can only be determined through the free, deliberative and democratic processes of that society Crocker It follows that what counts as reconciliation in one context will not count in another. Some critics charge that even to pose the problem that faces conflict-ridden societies as an issue of reconciliation improperly assumes that the project of political unity is legitimate and thereby undermines calls for secession or other forms of greater political autonomy for minority groups Woolford Corntassel and Holder further argue that adopting the frame of a unifying rhetoric of reconciliation can blind the parties to roles that minority identity and oppression played in bringing the atrocities about in the first place, as well as the lopsided distribution of harms that they left behind.

In response, one might argue that the problem of political reconciliation, at least its minimal sense, which asks how the parties will manage to live peacefully in continuing proximity with one another, continues to be relevant even if groups divide power rather than remain unified. Processes of reconciliation are designed to contribute to the improvement of relationships damaged as a result of wrongdoing. A wide range of such processes is examined in the literature. One that is brought up, more often in the context of objections to reconciliation rather than defenses, is forgetting Hughes , Bhargava Since the past cannot be changed, wrongdoing cannot be undone.

Therefore, one might argue, the only way to overcome a painful past is to suppress the memory of it. However, those theorists who defend the political and moral value of reconciliation more often reject the claim that reconciliation requires forgetting. Instead, these defenders generally claim that knowledge and acknowledgement of wrongdoing, as well as recognition of the victims, are crucial to successful reconciliation. Especially in political contexts, knowledge of basic facts is critical because often victims and the broader political community do not know who was responsible for the wrong suffered, nor the extent of violations committed.


Acknowledgement refers to the official, public recognition of what happened. This is often needed to counter official denial of wrongdoing or responsibility for wrongdoing Weschler The often unspoken, Freudian assumption is that suppressed traumas will inevitably reemerge in destructive ways. The more explicit arguments are that the acknowledgement of wrongs and of victims helps heal psychic wounds van Ness and Strong , enable trust Gibson , reestablish normative standards for behavior Walker , and reassert that the victims are indeed members of the moral or political community Llewellyn and Howse , du Toit As will be discussed below, while there is wide agreement that the processes of reconciliation must acknowledge the wrongs of the past and the proper standing of victims, theorists debate precisely how such acknowledgements are best communicated, so that they will be sufficiently credible and effective in improving future relations.

There is also ongoing debate in the political realm about which wrongs must be acknowledged and redressed. Violations of civil and political rights have historically been the focus of both theory and practice, but increasingly scholars argue for the importance of addressing violations of economic and cultural rights Mamdani , Sharp , Arbour Theorists also disagree about what else, besides acknowledgement, must be achieved in order for reconciliation to be either likely or warranted.

Must material forms of harm be redressed? Must retributive justice be achieved? Must the parties forgive? Disagreements about identifying necessary or appropriate processes are typically connected to the issue of the last section: disagreements about what degree of improvement in relations can reasonably be pursued in the aftermath of wrongdoing.

Finally, there is debate about who should decide which process of reconciliation is adopted in a given context. In the political context, this is in response to calls for greater local agency and decision-making McEvoy Apologizing is perhaps the most explicit way in which wrongdoing can be acknowledged. A well-formed apology requires at least acknowledgement of both the fact of wrongdoing and responsibility by the wrongdoer, as well as an expression of regret or remorse Tavuchis Ideally, the wrongdoer directly addresses the victim.

This is not possible in all cases, of course, as when victims have passed away. However, apologies made to indirect victims, such as the families of survivors, as well as apologies simply performed before broader, interested communities are well established in practice. In recent decades, official apologies, delivered by state entities or corporations, have become more common, raising questions about the validity and significance of apologetic statements made by representatives on behalf of groups Harvey , Gibney et al , especially when the events in question lie in the distant past Pettigrove Parties who have come to take responsibility for and repudiate past wrongful actions are better candidates for renewed relationships of cooperation and trust de Greiff This potential is undermined, however, where apologies are overly vague, incomplete, or appear insincere.

The importance of being sensitive to the gendered aspects of apology has also been highlighted MacLachlan While apologies are considered by some to make a significant contribution to reconciliation Brooks , M. Murphy , others worry that, in political cases, apologies may be used as a substitute for more substantive forms of redress Corntassel and Holder Official state apologies for systematic or historic injustices often result only after protracted and heated debate, leaving little political will to move on to other forms of redress that may be more significant to the victimized group.

Memorials take a number of different forms, such as monuments, preserved sites of important or tragic events, museums, archives, ceremonies or educational activities Barsalou and Baxter , Zembylas They may be officially or privately sponsored. Yet all provide a shared focus for memory.

Scholars argue that memorials of past wrongdoing have the potential to play a number of different roles in the process of reconciliation. First and foremost, they help preserve the memory of the past event, which counters any who would deny or forget the past. They help consolidate a communal understanding of history and provide a shared focus for emotions, such as grief or remorse.

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By helping to forge a collective memory of the past, memorials may also help rebuild or reshape a sense of collective identity Harjes Commemorations provided by groups responsible for wrongdoing may demonstrate a willingness to acknowledge responsibility for such wrongs, renewed respect for the victims, and commitment never to repeat such misdeeds Barsalou and Baxter , Blustein For the victimized group, a memorial can encourage self-respect, show fidelity to the dead, and help preserve their sense of themselves as a people Blustein On the other hand, memorials are frequently surrounded by controversy, as parties disagree over the version of history put forward or the manner in which it is displayed Minow Attempts to aestheticize past horrors may be offensive to some viewers Young Memorials may cynically divert attention from ongoing problems Blustein or serve as a rallying point for those who would like to renew the conflict Barsalou and Baxter Furthermore, the meanings of memorials change over time, as they are continually reinterpreted by later audiences inhabiting different political circumstances.

There is thus no guarantee that a memorial that contributes to reconciliation at one point in time will continue to do so Blustein Both apologies and memorials combine an acknowledgment of a troublesome past with the suggestion of an emotional reaction to that past, such as remorse, regret or grief. Yet, even without such emotional content, the communication of the facts of the past can play a role in reconciliation.

Individual victims and survivors often find themselves unable to move on when they are uncertain about crucial facts of the past. What precisely happened to their loved one? Did she suffer? Who exactly committed the violent act? Who gave the order? Where is the body buried? Truth telling, some scholars claim, can end ongoing suffering of victims and survivors who lack information about what happened and who was or was not responsible for abuses Zalaquett It can counter and prevent certain forms of denial e.

Truth telling may also serve as a form of reparation for those not actually implicated in crimes. Efforts to record and archive this information, as well as to distribute it in the form of educational materials, aim at ensuring that future generations will not repeat the past. In restorative justice processes, criminals are often required to give a narrative of the crime Llewellyn and Howse In the political sphere, one formal mechanism for uncovering and documenting the past is a truth commission.

Truth commissions are temporary official institutions established to examine patterns of specified human rights abuses over a given time period Hayner Dozens of truth commissions have been established in communities around the globe over the past thirty years, including Chile, Guatemala, and Chad.

Commission reports provide a summary of such findings and typically issue recommendations on how to prevent such abuses in the future. These reports vary in the degree to which the proceedings and findings are made public.

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Some name individual perpetrators and some do not. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was marked by a high degree of openness, televised the testimony of many victims and perpetrators. In the literature, a variety of claims are advanced regarding how truth commissions can contribute to reconciliation, both among individual perpetrators and victims as well as within national communities.

At the individual level, talking through the past is often represented as a form of catharsis, wherein the trauma of the past can be re-experienced, dealt with, and let go.

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  7. The South African TRC appeared to offer several examples of such a process, including spontaneous requests for forgiveness by perpetrators and offers of forgiveness by victims Tutu , South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report In terms of societal reconciliation, it is claimed that truth commissions reintegrate victims in a number of ways. The very fact that victims state publicly what happened to them contributes to re-establishing their civic and political dignity as well as participatory standing Kiss Officially recording the wrongs done to victims, which were typically officially denied in the past, reinforces the equal moral standing of victims du Toit, The report produced by a commission, especially when made public, can cultivate collective reconciliation by aiding a community to alter its self-understanding.

    A narrative must be produced of how a community could at once have a past full of abuses as well as a present and ideal future in which those abuses are rejected Dwyer It can also challenge stereotypes that dehumanized members of the community in the past C. Murphy and foster sympathy Eisikovits The proceedings and report of a truth commission can foster trust in institutions Gibson By condemning actions of the past, truth commissions reassert the force of normative standards that have been violated, or establish new normative standards for conduct when the extant terms for a relationship are unjust or immoral Walker Telling the truth is taken to be a form of reparation for victims Zalaquett , Walker Finally, the recommendations issued by commissions can contribute to the prevention of future wrongdoing.

    Truth commissions remain controversial. Many of the criticisms target, not the value of establishing the truth itself, but the means used to encourage perpetrators to testify, such as amnesty from prosecution. Others object to the ways in which truth commissions sometimes subtly pressure victims toward a forgiveness or reconciliation they may want to resist Dyzenhaus , Gutmann and Thompson , C. Murphy , or question the psychological benefits of giving testimony for victims Hamber Still other critics of truth commissions charge that the pursuit of narrative self-understanding is illiberal, insofar as it tries to establish a single authoritative interpretation of the past Gutmann and Thompson Finally, there are doubts about the reconciliatory effects of commissions that uncover the truth, but fail to take action against those implicated in wrongs Hamber Amnesty can be granted to individuals or classes of persons.

    It can be granted unconditionally or conditionally. If conditional, the granting of amnesty occurs only if certain provisions are met. For example, in South Africa, perpetrators had to make a complete disclosure of the rights violations for which they were responsible and demonstrate that such violations were committed for political reasons Dyzenhaus Amnesties may also be conditional on nonrecidivism Freeman Finally, amnesties vary in the extent to which they preclude other negative consequences e.

    A number of moral objections to amnesties have been raised. Granting amnesty is claimed to be inimical to countering historical impunity for political leaders and government agents responsible for egregious violations of human rights. The danger posed by amnesty policies is that, in failing to hold wrongdoers accountable and undermining the ability of victims to seek legal recourse for their harms, they may inadvertently send the message that the abuses of the past were not wrong or that the victims did not deserve better treatment Pensky Justified anger against the perpetrators will not be exorcised, and may instead find expression in acts of revenge.

    Amnesties continue to be used by states and in fact have increased in frequency Mallinder Communities adopt amnesties for a variety of reasons. As in South Africa, amnesties have been used to encourage perpetrators to give full and truthful testimony to truth commissions. Here, the value of remembering the past is emphasized. In contrast, as in Cambodia, amnesties can be used as part of a strategy to forget the past.

    Amnesties also may be used to incentivize an end to conflict, as was the case in South Africa Dyzenhaus Arguments for the moral permissibility of amnesty challenge the idea that granting amnesty reinforces impunity or undermines stability and justice Mallinder Freeman claims that amnesties can be justified as a measure of last resort, so long as victims are included in the process of deciding to pass an amnesty and amnesties are used for the sake of facilitating an end to conflict or reconciliation.

    Greenawalt argues that amnesties can be justified when necessary to prevent even greater injustice from occurring, such as violations of human rights as part of an ongoing conflict. Punishment is the intentional infliction of harm or suffering on a wrongdoer in response to a wrong committed. Although transitional societies are sometimes portrayed as having to choose between reconciliation and punishment, these responses are not necessarily opposed Bennett , Verdeja Implicit in this last analysis is the assumption that wrongdoing is fundamentally expressive, and what is expressed is the inferior moral standing of the victim, which permits the infliction of harm.

    Criminal prosecutions help victims re-gain sense of status as rights holder and so enhance dignity Nino , Bennett In the context of transitions to democracy, some scholars concentrate specifically on the significance of trials in response to collective and politically significant crimes, such as those involving human rights abuses by officials. Criminal trials mark a clear break from the past Malamud-Goti Trials signal the official disapproval of the actions for which an individual is being prosecuted, actions that may not have been officially condemned before.

    Criminal trials and punishment are also claimed to make a crucial contribution to societal reconciliation by reaffirming the normative standards that should govern interaction. Punishment can signify or cultivate a commitment to the rule of law, as well as the faith in law and decency among officials upon which the rule of law depends C. On the other hand, a number of scholars are skeptical about the reconciliatory impact of criminal trials, especially in response to widespread wrongdoing.

    Judith Shklar and Hannah Arendt argue trials do little to heal victims wounded by wrongdoing and have little pedagogical role regarding the normative standards that should govern relations. Trials fundamentally are oriented towards the establishment of the guilt of perpetrators, not the pursuit of the truth about the past. This can lead to a very limited understanding of the wrong that happened, its impact on victims and the broader context that made such wrongdoing possible, all of which may be important for reconciliation Llewellyn and Howse Moreover, the ability of domestic criminal justice systems in transitional societies to adhere to internationally recognized procedural standards has been questioned, as has the justifiability of selectively prosecuting only a fraction of the perpetrators involved in collective crimes van Zyl Lustration refers to legal measures that permit or require the investigation of individuals running for public office to see if they collaborated with the previous repressive regime.

    Collaboration is established on the basis of past crimes or membership in a political group.

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    Such measures are characteristically adopted in countries transitioning to democracy. In some cases, proven collaborators are barred from holding public office. In others, the past of collaborators is revealed publicly to an electorate, in turn diminishing prospects for election Kaminski and Nalepa Lustration is sometimes defended as a means of reestablishing trust in government, by assuring the public that past wrongdoers will no longer be in power. Chiu argues that lustration policies are compatible with a commitment to ethical individualism and due process.

    On the other hand, lustration has been criticized as a means of pursuing political reconciliation, both because of the potential for biased application of the policy and because it encourages the continuation of suspicion rather than cooperation among former enemies Govier A narrow use of the term refers to a transfer of goods or wealth that is intended to directly compensate for goods that were taken, damaged or destroyed.

    A still broader use of the term includes material transfers that have a more purely symbolic function. These payments are meant to send a conciliatory message of some sort rather than to suggest that the wrong or harm is being paid back. So could investments in the economy of a former foe. As Howard McGary has pointed out, material transfers in response to harm may be understood either within or independently of a process of reconciliation.

    McGary emphasizes that a backward-looking sense of justice can justify the repayment of a comparable value to victims who have suffered a wrongful loss or harm.

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    Here, the past wrong itself calls out for rectification. McGary argues that this forward-looking goal of reconciliation can insultingly suggest that a concern for justice is an insufficient reason to compensate the victim—that justice for these victims is only worth securing when it is also in the interest of the wrongdoers. It also highlights how significant the interpretation of a material transfer is in processes of reconciliation. Commentators who defend the conciliatory power of material reparations frequently interpret such payments as acknowledgements of responsibility, expressions of respect for the moral status of the victims, acts of remorse or caring, evidence of increased trustworthiness or a recommitment to the norms of justice Thompson , Brooks , Gray , Walker Yet the meanings of reparations can change, be undermined or repudiated, depending on the manner and context in which they are offered Brooks , Barkan , de Greiff Still, when combined with apologies, truth-telling, and other measures, reparations have the potential to improve relations.

    Perhaps more importantly, leaving identifiable harms uncompensated may undermine the effectiveness of apologies and other efforts to reconcile. Reparations for historical injustice are particularly controversial. One ongoing debate concerns the guilt or liability of those who would pay, the claim-rights and connection to the victims of those who would receive payment, and the difficulty in calculating the proper sum of restitution Waldron , Wheeler , Boxill Such debates suggest that reparations are being interpreted as restitution, where the legalistic logic of property rights and inheritance are paramount, rather than under the broader project of repairing relationships Thompson , Brooks Victims and their descendants, for their part, sometimes worry that accepting reparation payments may be seen as drawing a line under the past, as implying the moral debt is paid or that all is forgiven Barkan They also object to the suggestion that the people and other valuable things lost could be repaid by money or other material goods.

    There is considerable disagreement, especially in the political literature, on the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation. Can parties be reconciled if forgiveness is refused? Is forgiveness genuine if the victim refuses to restore her relationship with the wrongdoer? In part, differences of opinion on these matters are traceable to the sorts of disagreements about defining reconciliation that have been surveyed here namely, regarding the kinds and degrees of improvement that must be made before a specific kind of relationship may be described as reconciled.

    Similar disagreements over the nature of forgiveness complicate matters even further. In the literature on interpersonal forgiveness, definitions of forgiveness commonly focus on the overcoming or forswearing of resentment or similar negative attitudes that were the result of wrongdoing, and some would add the reestablishment of positive attitudes, such as goodwill, toward the wrongdoer J.

    Murphy , Pettigrove Where such changes in attitude do not occur, but where the parties to the wrong manage to reestablish peaceful coexistence, cooperation or even trust, talk of reconciliation seems reasonable. This would be a case of reconciliation without forgiveness.