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Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S.

Spirituality in Reconciliation and Peacemaking

When most people think about the concept of reconciliation, either on the individual or the social level, they are likely to expect a discussion of techniques of conflict transformation. There is, of course, an entire body of literature on conflict prevention, conflict management, and conflict transformation, much of which can be useful to the missionary. Indeed, some of the findings and methods developed in this area will be discussed in the next lecture. While these have their legitimate place in the work of reconciliation and peacemaking, I wish to focus on here is the role of a supportive spirituality for those who, as missionaries, work within a paradigm of reconciliation. I do this for two reasons. First of all, there is a greater interest in spirituality in the work of reconciliation and peacemaking today as a whole. One of the things which became evident in the 1990s, as interest in reconciliation began to grow, was that the burnout rate among those involved in reconciliation work was extremely high. The task of conflict transformation is arduous, and fails perhaps most of the time. It is always a lengthy process, demanding focus and commitment on the part of those involved. As this became clearer, many conflict resolution workers in secular non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began turning to their religious counterparts, especially in relief and development agencies, expecting to find some help from their spiritual traditions. Unfortunately, workers in those agencies had been caught unawares of the need to engage in reconciliation work as everyone else. They had often no more idea on how to draw on their spiritual traditions than anyone else. In the last six or eight years, a great deal more effort has been put by these agencies to discovering spiritual roots which can nourish this important but arduous work. Some experts in conflict resolution have themselves written about religious motivations for their work.

Second, the focus here will be on the distinctive contributions made by missionaries (or one may want to broaden it to religious workers in general ) in situations of reconciliation and peacemaking. What missionaries do as missionaries is of central interest. Thus the spirituality must conform in some way to the theology of reconciliation out of which missionaries work.

This presentation will be structured as follows. It begins with a brief description of what is meant here by “spirituality,” since this is a term that, until recently, was used mainly in Roman Catholic and Orthodox circles. Then a number of elements distinctive to this spirituality will be discussed. The elements presented here do not constitute the entirety of what such a missionary spirituality ought to be, since a spirituality flowing out of this paradigm of mission is still in the developing stages. Finally, an example of how this spirituality might be developed further will be presented, to show its links both to Scripture and to the theology of reconciliation set out in the previous presentation.

Spirituality and Theology: