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Summary: The Healing Function in Political Conflict Resolution

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from Conflict Resolution: Theory & Practice, Integration & Application,

edited by Dennis Sandole and Hugo van der Merwe

This chapter deals with alternative approaches to ethnic and religious conflicts that are resistant to traditional technique of diplomatic or political mediation and negotiation. Healing and reconciliation in such settings depend on a process of contrition and forgiveness between aggressors and victims. A process that is indispensable to the establishment of new relationships, that which are based on mutual acceptance and reasonable trust. Montville says this process depends on joint analysis of the history of the conflict, recognition of injustices and resulting historic wounds, and acceptance of moral responsibility where due.

Montville begins the chapter with a description of victimhood and its three components. What follows are discussions of:

  • Problem solving workshops, which make possible a process of undermining negative stereotypes and rehumanizing relationships.
  • Conflict resolution strategy of taking a history, whose purpose is to elicit grievances and wounds, which have not been acknowledged by the side responsible for inflicting them. Revising and cleaning up the published historical record of a conflicted intergroup or international relationship is essential to the reconciliation process.
  • Accepting responsibility; contrition and forgiveness; and transforming public consciousness.

The chapter ends with a review of strategies for changing negative belief systems in Northern Ireland and the Middle East. The projects highlighted here aim at influencing belief systems among adversaries to create an environment in public opinion which would promote other conflict resolution efforts.